At last Saturday's preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Rams Offensive Lineman Andrew Whitworth hosted more than 30 combat veterans with Merging Vets and Players (MVP) in his suite at SoFi Stadium.
"My biggest kick was watching our members walk in and seeing their expressions," said Dustin Beluscak, Merging Vets and Players Program Coordinator. "They all had a sense of joy. They were the happiest I'd seen them in such a long time."
The mission of MVP is to empower combat veterans and former professional athletes by connecting them and providing a new team to assist with transition, promote personal development and show them they are never alone.
"Andrew is our brother," said one of the combat veterans with MVP. "He's a member and he advocates for the athlete side of what Merging Vets and Players is. When you think of the example… that's Andrew Whitworth."
Whitworth has been a longtime supporter of MVP. Last year, during the peak of COVID-19, Whitworth joined others in a virtual fundraiser to raise $100,000 for veterans and athletes impacted by COVID-19. In years prior, Whitworth and the Rams invited MVP veterans to the team practice facility to participate in workouts and discussions about the transitions for when the cleats and uniforms come off.
"It means to the world to have Andrew Whitworth as a member of MVP. It means he believes in what we are trying to accomplish here," said Beluscak. "No matter where you are in the world, whether you're a combat veteran or an athlete, you will face struggles and we are here to pick each other up. You always need a team, whether you're an athlete and you have a team on the sports field, or you're a veteran and you have a team in your unit. We're building each other up to the next level, and to have him see that is truly valuable because that means we are on the right path."
Founded in 2015 by Fox Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, MVP is a free weekly program that addresses the challenges combat veterans and former professional athletes face in transition once the uniform comes off.
To learn more about the Rams' history of honoring veterans and active-duty members of the military, please visit www.therams.com/community/military/.