FOXBORO -- Joe Cardona has quietly taken his place in one corner of the Patriots locker room and effectively done his job for the last season-and-a-half.
As a rookie he worked two jobs: one at Gillette Stadium as the team's long-snapper, one as an active-duty Naval officer working at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island. After transitioning to the Navy Reserve before the start of this season, Cardona has remained steadfast in his role as an ensign and in his support of fellow servicemen and women.
In April he helped lead a free football clinic for military families, and on Monday he visted Joint Base Cape Cod along with teammates Jordan Richards and Eric Rowe to announce that the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, in partnership with WBZ, would donate toys collected from its annual toy drive to replace those lost in a fire at the base last month that had been donated the Cape Cod Military Support Foundation.
On the day of his visit down the Cape, Cardona was announced as the Patriots nominee for the NFL's sixth-annual Salute to Service Award.
"It's a huge honor," Cardona said. "It speaks more to the mentors I've had in my life that have affected the path that I've gone down to be here today, playing football. I've had a lot of people help me become the person I am, become the man I am.
"I just try to treat every day as if I have to live up to that standard that they set. It's a huge honor. Especially to be mentioned in the conversation with a lot of guys who do a lot of great work for veterans causes. I'm just very appreciative of the honor, and I hope I can live up to it."
Since 2011, the Salute to Service Award honors a league member who demonstrates exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. Finalists for the award will be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors awards show in Houston on the night before the Super Bowl.