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NFL Proudly Invests in the Tillman Scholars

The NFL partners with the Pat Tillman Foundation to honor leaders who exemplify Pat’s enduring legacy of service.

The NFL’s contributions support the Tillman Scholar program, which provides active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses with academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities, so they are empowered to make an impact. With the NFL’s support, more than 500 Tillman Scholars are now pursuing careers in medicine, business, law, science, education and the arts.

The NFL’s contributions also support the annual Tillman Honors and Pat Tillman Leadership Summit, which convene the Tillman Scholars to network, collaborate and present solutions to challenges facing the country through keynotes, panels and workshops with industry, non-profit and community leaders.


The NFL supports scholarships for leaders who exemplify Pat’s legacy of service.

Joseph Wheaton, U.S. Army

Arizona State University
M.Ed, Secondary Education

Honored by the Arizona Cardinals

Stoic and a man of few words, Joseph Wheaton grew up in rural Maine where people understood one another with few words. After serving six deployments to the Middle East in five years, Joseph turned his attention to new challenges. After completing a law degree, Joseph determined that the lack of access to quality education for young children was the greatest threat to our nation. Believing that classrooms need leaders as teachers, Joseph embarked on a two-year Teach for America journey, where he realized that his experiences as a squad leader—including attention to detail, ability to overcome obstacles, and ability to direct focus and motivation to the end goal–prepared him well for leading a classroom.

Joseph has decided to further his teaching experience by pursuing a Master of Education while working full-time as a teacher, in order to address education policy issues and continue to bring education leadership to those who need it most. It is his hope that a greater understanding of education policy, combined with his law degree, will enable him to affect change on the policy level. Joseph believes it is his duty, as a leader in the classroom, to foster a culture of high expectations. This is step one in his mission to close the opportunity gap in our education system.

Michael Christman, U.S. Marine Corps

University of California, Berkeley
Master of Business Administration

Honored by the San Francisco 49ers

Captain Mike Christman’s path to the Marine Corps was anything but traditional. Mike received his education at Columbia University as an engineer, and his first real job was as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. During a deployment with the CIA to Baghdad, just after the invasion of Iraq, Mike determined that he wanted to help the men and women on the front lines directly, and joined the Marines as a Cobra helicopter pilot, serving two tours in Afghanistan.

During his time, Mike developed a groundbreaking system using iPads to replace more than 1,000 paper maps used while flying combat missions in Afghanistan. In order to implement this innovative approach, Mike had to battle both technical problems and engrained bureaucracy. He did not give up, and as a result, precious time was saved which translated directly into lives saved. Shortly after this, Mike met with other like-minded officers who refused to accept business as usual, and created an unsanctioned.

Blake Schroedter, Sergeant First Class

The Adler School of Professional Psychology,
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Honored by the Chicago Bears

Blake joined the U.S. Army to serve his country and open doors to a college education. Two years later, he crossed the border of Kuwait, into Iraq, with his Army unit. He was 20 years old.

When Blake returned from a year in Baghdad, it was clear that his mind had been pushed to its limit during deployment. He tried seeing a psychologist but felt a divide; they couldn’t relate to his war experiences.

“My time with the Army inspired a new mission: to help fellow veterans returning home from war.” This vision pushed him to pursue his Doctorate in Psychology. After completing his degree, Blake wants to work for a VA Medical Center and continue to serve in the Illinois Army National Guard as a clinical psychologist.

Emily Thompson Schelberg, Marine Sergeant

Johns Hopkins University,
Master’s in Nursing

Honored by the Baltimore Ravens

Emily was raised in a culture of service among her family. Many of her family members served in the military, in emergency medicine or as firefighters. But ultimately, it was the loss of one family member on 9/11 that motivated her to join the Marines.

After basic training, Emily was deployed to Iraq. It was during her deployment, while assisting Navy Corpsmen on a humanitarian aid mission, that Emily realized her desire to work in healthcare. She was touched by the impact a single well-trained medical professional can have on a population with limited access to basic healthcare and realized the medical field was her true calling. She is pursuing a master’s in nursing with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner with an emphasis in orthopedics, and plans to serve underprivileged communities.

D’Onior Felton, Petty Officer Third Class

George Washington University,
Doctor of Medicine

Honored by the Washington Redskins

Growing up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, D’Onior aimed to work in public health but never dreamt of becoming a doctor. She joined the U.S. Navy and worked as a hospital corpsman with a specialty in surgical technology. There, she gained the confidence and the aspiration to become a physician.

During active-duty, D’Onior earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland. After separating from the service in 2005, she completed pre-med prerequisites on her way to entering medical school at George Washington University.

D’Onior’s goal is to provide healthcare to underserved communities in the south and continue volunteer medical missions abroad. She also wants to participate in community-based programs to combat negative health outcomes for youth, particularly teen pregnancy.

Patrick Nelson, Staff Sergeant

Minnesota State University, Bachelor of Science,
Sports Management and History

Honored by the Minnesota Vikings

Patrick Nelson is a former paratrooper with 39 months of combat experience while serving nearly seven years of active-duty in the U.S. Army. During two deployments in Afghanistan, Patrick took online classes and graduated with honors earning an Associate of Arts degree from Central Texas College.

At Minnesota State University, Patrick maintained a 4.0 GPA and volunteered at the YMCA Big Brother program. In the future, he would like to work for a professional sports organization and coach local sporting activities.

Patrick has also started a nonprofit called Real Combat Life. It is an online portal for veterans to share their stories and educate the public on what life is like in combat from a firsthand perspective. He recently won a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Everything program to help bring his nonprofit to life.




Game-worn Salute to Service merchandise and footballs will be auctioned at Special camouflage merchandise will be available at and in select stadium retail stores. All charitable contributions are donated to the NFL’s military nonprofit partners including the Pat Tillman Foundation, TAPS, USO and Wounded Warrior Project. Shop for NFL gear to help make an impact.

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