Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Alex Mack is one of four NFL players who has embarked on the 2015 NFL-USO Tour for a weeklong trip to U.S. military bases throughout the Middle East, continuing the tradition that began nearly 50 years ago.
Mack, who also visited servicemen and servicewomen in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan during the 2012 NFL-USO Tour, is joined by New Orleans Saints tackle Akiem Hicks, free agent offensive lineman Will Svitek and former Atlanta Falcons linebacker and NFL officiating department employee Brian Banks.
“I am truly excited to be going on my second USO tour to visit American troops stationed overseas,” said Mack. “It's an honor to be invited into the lives of our servicemen and women and to be given an opportunity to show my appreciation.
“They do a dangerous job so we can enjoy our freedom and way of life. I'm lucky a lot of our soldiers enjoy watching football and I can bring a little slice of home out to them while they are serving. Last time I was on a USO tour, the troops showed me an extraordinary time. They were kind, friendly, engaging, and took me into their lives with open arms. I did amazing things with even more amazing people. Hearing their stories and learning about their life abroad gives me a new appreciation for what they do and go through. I look forward to another unforgettable trip.”
Cleveland's 2014 Salute to Service Award honoree, Mack consistently supports the Browns' local military-focused initiatives and the USO of Northern Ohio. Additionally, he frequently participates in the team's First and Ten volunteering campaign by emphasizing the importance of reading to Northeast Ohio youth and assisting the Browns' and Greater Cleveland Food Banks' efforts to raise funds and awareness for hungry families.
After being selected No. 21 overall by Cleveland in 2009, Mack started his first 85 games at center and played every offensive snap (5,279 plays) to begin his Browns career, with the streak ending after he fractured his fibula in the second quarter against Pittsburgh last season. He has been selected to two Pro Bowls (2010, 2013), becoming only the third Browns center to earn the distinction multiple times, and was selected to the All-Pro second team by the Associated Press in 2013.
Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas also went on a NFL-USO Tour in 2010, while former Browns players Eric Metcalf and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson shared the experience during separate expeditions in 2013.
The NFL and USO have worked together on overseas morale-building visits for nearly 50 years. In 1966, the NFL teamed with the USO and became the first sports organization to send players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia.