Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt autographs a t-shirt for a soldier stationed in the Middle East. (USO photo by Fred Greaves)
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PHOTOS: Troops Welcome NFL Stars During Players' USO Tour to Middle East

Monday, March 18, 2013

Six NFL players volunteered time during their off-season to visit deployed troops based on posts in the Middle East as part of a week-long USO Entertainment tour. On March 14, the group began a journey designed to uplift, inspire and extend America’s gratitude to servicemen and women serving overseas. The NFL team includes: Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey; Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson; Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph; Broncos linebacker Von Miller; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith; and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

So far, the group has visited approximately four military sites downrange and has entertained hundreds of troops. This trip marks the first USO/NFL tour for each player.


From left to right, Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt talk with an injured soldier stationed in the Middle East on March 18.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph, right, and Miller greet a serviceman on March 18.


From left to right, Jackson, Smith and Bailey look out from a mountaintop in the Middle East during a tour given by a troop on March 18.


Quick as a real panther, Smith races a service member stationed in the Middle East. Smith prevailed.

Smith said: "I am honored to have this rare opportunity through the NFL and USO to spend time with the men and women serving in our armed forces. Being able to visit with troops during their deployment, having the chance to shake their hands, look them in the eye and personally thank them for what they do is a privilege."


The Bucs' Joseph signs an autograph for a soldier.

"To get the opportunity to represent the NFL, the Buccaneers and to really show how much appreciation we have for the troops that serve our country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Joseph said. "I have the utmost respect for our servicemen and women and the things they do, the sacrifices they make for our country."


Broncos cornerback Bailey poses for a photo with a service member, sitting on top of a Black Hawk helicopter.

"This is a great opportunity to support the servicemen and women of our armed forces and bring attention to their efforts overseas," Bailey said.


The Browns' D’Qwell Jackson, (third from left) and the Broncos' Miller (second from right, partly blocked) encourage their service member teammates during an impromptu touch football game with troops stationed in the Middle East.

"It's an honor to be a part of this USO tour," Jackson said. "I think it's a great experience and an opportunity to speak first-hand and show our gratitude to our military."


Miller breaks away with the football during the game.

Miller said: "I'm excited to represent the Broncos and the NFL on this tour and show my appreciation for the military personnel who serve our country."


The Texans' J.J. Watt autographs a t-shirt for a soldier stationed in the Middle East following the football game .

Updated 3/19/13: For more images, click over to our Flickr page.  

(Photos by Fred Greaves – USO / Produced by Christian Pelusi) 

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