COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.) of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team is the inaugural recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service, an honor created by ESPN and the Pat Tillman Foundation that will be presented at The 2014 ESPYS July 16 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
"Growing up in Phoenix, I was very familiar with Pat Tillman and what he stood for; I aspired to be like him," said Sweeney, an alternate captain for the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. "Receiving this award is truly an honor. I look forward to being a part of The 2014 ESPYS and assisting the Pat Tillman Foundation in its efforts to benefit veterans."
Sweeney scored the gold-medal winning goal in Team USA's 1-0 triumph over Russia at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. As a result, the U.S. became the first nation to win back-to-back Paralympic gold medals in sled hockey.
A sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps, Sweeney was on patrol in Afghanistan in October 2009 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He received a Purple Heart for his service. An able-bodied hockey player in high school, Sweeney was drawn to sled hockey during his rehabilitation in San Antonio, Texas. He was less than two years removed from his injuries when he began his career with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in 2011-12.
“We’re proud to honor Josh Sweeney with the first annual Pat Tillman Award for Service, which pays tribute to the lasting legacy of selflessness, leadership and sacrifice that Pat represented, and we look forward to this new tradition at the ESPYS," said Connor Schell, vice president, ESPN Films and Original Entertainment, who oversees the ESPYS.”
Ten years after his death, the Pat Tillman Award for Service was created to honor former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman. The annual award will honor an individual with a strong connection to sports that has served others in a way that echoes the Tillman legacy.
Tillman placed his NFL career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army. He served tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as well as in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. On the evening of April 22, 2004, Tillman’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through eastern Afghanistan leading to his tragic death.
Founded in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.
“Pat was deeply committed to a life of service both in and out of uniform as a teammate and soldier,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Sgt. Josh Sweeney embodies the selfless spirit of service that has defined this generation of veterans for more than a decade. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to honor Josh for his incredible achievements leading Team USA, but especially for his dedication to inspire and empower others as leaders for our country.”
The 2014 ESPYS will be televised live July 16 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Notes: Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.) is a nominee for the 2014 ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability. Fan voting is open at ESPN.com/ESPYS and runs to July 16. Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.), Team USA's goaltender at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, won the 2010 ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability.