JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The thrill of accomplishment and the anticipation of what lies ahead. That’s what you feel at your commencement ceremony.
And on Thursday, that applied to some four-legged graduates and their partners with K9s For Warriors. The dogs and their handlers represented the 650th graduating class.
“I just want to say thank you to all of our military veterans,” said Jaguars tight end Tyler Eifert, who attended the ceremony. “You are America’s true heroes.”
While congratulating the graduates, he was recognized as a “Champion For Veterans” and given an award.
“We can help the military, we can help the veterans, and we can also help the dogs that have been rescued,” Eifert said.
K9s For Warriors trains rescued dogs and places them with veterans. The duo becomes bonded -- a team helping each other thrive.
Eifert supports the group, representing it through the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign. He got to know one warrior, who was his guest at a game against the Tennessee Titans.
“I was lucky enough to partner up with Carlos and represent him on my cleats,” Eifert said. “He said it was his first NFL game, and I just wanna thank him for his support because I think we had lost 10 games in a row, but you still showed up in support and having your name on my cleats was an honor.”
Carlos Cruz graduated from the program in 2018 and was thrilled to get to know Eifert.
He also got to keep the cleats.
“I really appreciate everything he stands for, you know. His message,” Cruz said.
Eifert received the Champion For Veterans Award because of an essay he wrote back in 2017 on the controversy over kneeling during the national anthem. He chose to stand, but showed respect in the piece he wrote for those who knelt and then began to honor a different service member each game by writing their name on his game day cleats.