GEN Odierno receives NFF Distinguished American Award

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 10, 2013) -- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno was honored with the National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award, Dec. 10.

Among other honorees was Texas Longhorns long snapper Nate Boyer, a staff sergeant in the Texas National Guard, who received the National Football Foundation, or NFF, Legacy Award.

Both men spoke during a morning NFF Annual Awards press conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, which aired live on ESPN3.

"If it wasn't for college football, I wouldn't be here today," Odierno said, describing how in 1971 the head coach of the U.S. Military Academy, Tom Cahill, recruited him.

Unfortunately, Odierno said, he had a series of knee injuries that prevented him from playing. Nevertheless, he went on and graduated from the academy.

"I've always been indebted to college football," he said, explaining that it led him to making the Army a career.

Today, thousands of players are getting a college education because of football, he noted, adding, "football helps develop future leaders, not just for the military but for our society."

There are a number of important parallels between football and the military, Odierno said.

To be a Soldier, "you've got to be mentally and physically tough and football promotes that resilience," he said.

There will be "peaks and valleys" in the lives of Soldiers and football players, he said, continuing with the comparison. Those who are resilient are going to be better able to deal with those valleys and succeed.

In the military as in football, "it's not about the individual, it's about being part of a group of young men and women who are able to accomplish something that's much greater than themselves," Odierno said.

While not every football player will get to experience the success that Florida State or Auburn are having this season, he said, "others will compete and be successful at achieving something that they never thought they'd achieve, by beating a certain team."

In a final analogy, he said that as a football player, "you've got to constantly depend on those on your right and left and have inherent trust in them" as Soldiers do in the military. And, "you've got to trust your coaches, just as Soldiers have faith in their leaders."