The San Diego Chargers had some very special guests on hand Tuesday morning as the team hosted a military appreciation training camp visit presented by USAA.
Over 100 marines and naval officers got the opportunity to watch a closed practice and experience a chalk talk with former Chargers Pro Bowl linebacker Donnie Edwards. After the final whistle blew, virtually the entire Chargers squad made their way to the sideline to mingle with the officers, take photos and sign autographs.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to thank them for everything they do for us,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “For protecting our country, it’s a great commitment by them and what they do to help us.”
The military members in turn appreciated the opportunity to come out and watch some football on a morning away from the base.
“Today we’re here to host marines out here for military appreciation,” said former Command Sergeant Major Jim Dickie, the manager for the western region of the military affairs team at the USAA. “We’re partnered with the NFL and we’re the Chargers military appreciation cohorts, so we’re just happy to be here taking care of the marines. This is a very rare opportunity and everyone is excited to get out here and be able to take some photos, get some autographs and watch what the players go through. It’s great to have role models like the Chargers support and give back to the military.”
The officers in attendance certainly agreed with Dickie.
“This is a great way to spend a day at someone else’s office and see the San Diego Community,” said Corporal Jonathan Soriano, a Cleveland, Ohio native. “We all come from different areas of the United States, so to see where we are stationed at and what we represent is really cool. It makes me proud to be in San Diego.”
The day started with the visitors receiving a half-hour chalk talk with Edwards, who has a strong connection to both San Diego and the military. Edwards grew up in America’s finest city a die-hard Chargers fan, and the opportunity to play for the team from 2002 until 2006 was a dream come true. He spent his time this morning reminiscing about his playing days, offering an inside glimpse of life as an NFL player, and most specifically what it was like to be a Charger.
“It was incredible to be a Charger, so I like talking about those days,” said Edwards. “I was telling a story of my best memory and that was my first preseason game in 2002 at what is now Qualcomm. I grew up watching the Chargers there – guys like Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow and Chuck Muncie. Now all of a sudden I’m on the same exact field as those guys wearing a Chargers uniform getting ready to play a game. It was a dream come true and I remember Junior Seau saying to me, ‘It’s crazy, huh? I went through the same exact thing.’ So that is something I’ll never forget.”
Another one of his stories that the military members enjoyed involved
“It was awesome,” Soriano said of meeting Edwards. “It was cool to meet a legend. You always see people like him on TV or on the internet or in news articles, but you don’t get many chances to see them in person. So it’s definitely great to see someone like him in person.”
For Edwards, the opportunity to address the marines and navy officers in attendance meant something special. The armed forces have played a major role in his life coming from a military family. Over the last few years he’s made numerous USO trips, most recently to Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago.
“The Chargers asked me to come out here because they know the military really means a lot to me coming from a military family,” Edwards said. “My father was a marine at Camp Pendleton, so I’m very thankful. That’s why I always say thank you to them. I’ve done quite a bit of stuff as a player with USO tours all over the world. I always enjoy saying hello and getting to talk with the men and women who defend our country.”