By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
When Carolina Panthers linebacker David Mayo laces up his cleats on Sunday, it will be a very special moment for him. Mayo is participating in the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign, and the shoes he has designed will honor two of his brothers – both active members of the military.
Justus Mayo is a Captain in the United States Army, currently stationed at Fort Benning (Georgia), and Jordan Mayo is a Specialist in the U.S. Army reserves, living in the family’s native Oregon. Both men have served tours in Afghanistan.
Mayo, now in his second NFL season, is participating in My Cause My Cleats for the first time and never considered honoring anything or anyone else because of his gratitude for what his brothers, and all members of the military, do in serving the country.
“Every time that national anthem plays, I’m so thankful for one, that my brothers came back from Afghanistan but also, I’m so thankful I get to do what I do,” Mayo said. “To play this game that I’ve been playing since I’m a kid. Every game I have a moment where I’m so thankful for my life because of what our military does to keep us safe.”
Mayo had kept what he was doing a secret from his family (which in addition to his two brothers includes four other siblings), until his wife sent everyone a picture of the cleats Mayo will wear. “The cat’s out of the bag,” Mayo laughed. Each cleat is decorated with camouflage on the outside, and an American flag on the inside. On the back of each cleat is the name and rank of one of his brothers.
Being drafted by the Panthers was a perfect fit for Mayo, given the team’s commitment to giving back to the military. Head coach Ron Rivera’s father spent over 30 years in the military, and he spearheads many of the team’s community endeavors related to the U.S. armed forces.
“Yesterday I got the opportunity to visit Fort Bragg (with other members of the Panthers),” Mayo said. “They showed us around and ran us through some army stuff. It’s great to see and talk with those guys.”
Mayo has also visited his brother at Fort Benning and the close personal ties he has allows him to keep a balanced perspective on his own life.
“It keeps me very grounded,” he said. “And that’s why I’m so thankful every time the national anthem plays. I’m able to do this and play this game that I love so much because of what this country is.”
And Mayo will be presenting his brothers with the cleat bearing their name as a keepsake, and a personal thank you for their service.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.