George Kittle had a career-changing season in 2018, which led to a life-changing experience off the field.
Kittle set the NFL receiving record for tight ends with 1,377 yards in his second NFL season, which led to his first selection to the NFC Pro Bowl team.
While at the Pro Bowl, he learned about TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), an organization that supports military families that lost loved ones in service.
“I had no idea what TAPS was,” Kittle told NBC Sports Bay Area this week.
Now, he is using his platform as one of the game’s most dynamic players and personalities to bring awareness to the organization.
Although he will not be able to play for several more weeks as he recovers from a broken foot, Kittle this week unveiled his TAPS-inspired footwear for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign. Kittle’s involvement with TAPS was created in partnership with USAA.
Kittle has long had an appreciation for the sacrifices of military members. He had the opportunity during the week at the Pro Bowl to learn about the organization that provides comfort and hope for grieving families through a national peer support network and connections to grief resources at no cost to surviving family members.
“It was awesome,” Kittle said. “Honestly, it was eye-opening because I really didn’t know what TAPS was. I didn’t know there was an organization like that. I got to hang out with all these different families that lost loved ones in service.”
Kittle said he felt the appreciation from the families just for his commitment to interact with them for a while. But he said he gets as much, or more, from the experiences.
“It goes a lot way for them, and it goes a long way for me, as well,” he said.
Kittle connected with the family of Army Sgt. Martin “Mick” LaMar of Sacramento, who died in 2011 while serving in Operation New Dawn in Iraq. He provided tickets to Super Bowl LIV for the family.
“(They’re) huge 49ers fans, that’s what was so fun,” Kittle said.