Colts punter Pat McAfee bleeds red, white, and blue.
If there's one thing he loves more than America – it's the brave men and women who serve America. And he supports them not just on Veterans Day, not just on Memorial Day, not just on the Fourth of July, but every day.
"He found his little niche, what he wanted to do with his star power even before he became a big star," says Erich Orrick, Vice President of Wish For Our Heroes. "I met him at an Indianapolis Indians game where he hosted 50 people and the next time when he came to Camp Atterbury and visited all the troops. And from that day on, it was like, 'Man, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to help these troops.' We've been helping troops together since day one, so to speak."
It's a cause that speaks to McAfee's heart – and one he supports whole-heartedly. He even set up a foundation, the Pat McAfee Foundation, to provide scholarships to children of military service people.
"I've had the chance to meet so many awesome Americans, men and women who've signed a line saying, 'I'm willing to sacrifice my life for this country. I'm willing to do this.' And to be honest, it's just such an honor to help them," he says. "It really is. I'm lucky to do it. And I'm just doing what everybody else would do."
But that's where he's wrong.
Not everybody is willing to answer the call to serve. And not everybody is willing to answer the call from those who serve – and that's what sets McAfee apart.
"It's always been that thing where Pat has told me, 'Hey, look. Whatever I can do Erich, call me morning, noon, or night and I'll do it,'" says Orrick.
Orrick doesn't hesitate to call. And McAfee doesn't hesitate to help. But he does hesitate to take credit. Thankfully, Orrick doesn't hesitate to pass it along anyway.
"It's quite nice to have that ability to reach out and find a solution for people who have given so much. These are guys who have deployed and getting people home, it's really neat some of the things he's done."
Here are just a few examples:
"Reference a $5,000 check for a guy down in Texas' air conditioning system or two years ago, I had a single mom that was trying to complete college and she was going to have to quit college or get a job. This was our Halloween party where we originally raised $1,000 to give it to her and Pat just said, 'No. I'm going to give her $10,000 and she's going to stay in college and go on and do better things for herself.'"
"A dad sent me a request for help, he had two sons that he had part time and he was going to be homeless and he was like, 'Look, if I don't have an apartment and a place to live, I'm not going to be able to see my kids. Not only that, but my former roommate kicked me out and kept all my stuff.' So, Pat was like, 'Look, man. I'm going to give you $10,000.' And we did his whole apartment worth of stuff, gave him a set of bunk beds that were Colts themed and a big Fathead of Pat on the wall."
"Last Christmas, we did the Christmas patrol where we drove around to 12 veterans just writing them checks. Of course, we prescreened them and made sure that they had a need, but he gave me a budget of $25,000 and we drove around giving people money."
"There was one gentleman who we mailed a check to, he cried. He was like, 'You know what? I'm on my last leg. Last night I had a gun to my mouth and today I have the money I need to put a down payment on my house to get me and my daughter off the street.'"
And his latest charitable venture, McAfee set up a GoFundMeaccount to rally Hoosiers to help homeless veterans get back on their feet – and committed to match up to $50,000.
"He understands that his star power is much more about being able to help other people than about getting a VIP table at a club or something," says Orrick. "I do this because I've been in the military 21 years. I've lost soldiers, I know what these troops are going through. But Pat does it because he wants to help."
"I think it's a really cool thing. I think it's awesome that the NFL honors our military heroes with a Salute to Service Month. I'm lucky to be the nominee. I'm in a very, very lucky position that I get to help people," he said. That being said, "I think awards are very dumb. I think doing the right thing should not be awarded, I think it's something that should be expected."
Kicking footballs for a living, Pat McAfee does what few people could do – and uses it to benefit those who do what few people would do.
And for that, we salute him today too.