Military’s finest shine at AT&T Stadium combine

By Ariel Graham | DFW Newsflash | March 2017

The military’s finest athletes took to the field, putting their skills on display at the Dallas Cowboys Military Combine at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Fifty elite soldiers from Fort Hood took part in a first-ever military combine, sponsored by the Dallas Cowboys and Caliber Collision. The troops were pitted against each other in a series of track and field events conducted by Dallas Cowboys’ personnel. The winners walked away with more than just bragging rights, but the chance to assist the Cowboys at the NFL draft later this year.

“Before the draft, the NFL has what’s called a combine,” said Steve Grimshaw, CEO of Caliber Collision. “It showcases the talents and skills of the individual players – things like the 40 yard dash, long jump and so on. You can say it does or doesn’t have anything to do with football, but historically [the NFL] has done this to give them their first real-life look at the actual athletes. It helps them with their draft picks, prioritizations, rankings and all that.”

Modeled after the NFL’s scouting combine, the event had soldiers compete in seven challenges: the 40 yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, short shuttle, 300 yard shuttle, “L” drill and a two minute push-up test. Grimshaw said the Cowboys had originally approached Caliber for some advertising and explained how the two parties came together to form this one-of-a-kind event.

“A large majority of our customers are military and first responders,” Grimshaw said. “We brainstormed between the two and said ‘Hey, instead of doing some type of advertising relationship, what can we do that’s maybe a little unique, that can involve the military, be part of the community events that we do, bring the community out and really honor and recognize the military?’ This is the brain child between Caliber and the Dallas Cowboys.”

Specialist Logan Smith felt the action and camaraderie of the event was a nice change of pace.

“It’s a great feeling. We appreciate all the support we’ve been given,” Smith said. “Competing out here with my brothers and sisters is something fun for us to do on the weekend instead of sitting in the barracks or staying at home.”

Smith added that events like this help to bring the community closer to the soldiers as well as bring more awareness to the military.

“I think it gives people more awareness that we’re out there,” he said. “A lot of people, unless you live around a military town or you hear about the troops on the news, don’t know who the soldiers are.”

Another competitor, Sargent Chad Valle, was thrilled at the chance to play on the same field as the Cowboys.

“I am actually from Dallas and I’m a Cowboys’ fan, so I feel like this is a childhood dream come true,” Sgt. Valle said. “This event really allows the troops and families to actually come together and be able to do something and think outside of the war.”

The male overall winner of the combine was Tavon Johnson, and the female overall winner was Shonta Tucker. The two will have the honor of announcing the Dallas Cowboys 2017 draft picks later in April.

After the drills, three soldiers and their families were awarded cars, courtesy of Recycled Rides, a program that repairs and donates old cars to individuals in need. Staff Sargent Stacy Bernard, Specialist Nikolai Patterson, and Private First Class Andrew Parvin were all selected to receive the newly renovated vehicles. The vehicles were donated by State Farm and repaired by Caliber Collision.

Grimshaw hopes this inaugural combine will be the first in a long line of events honoring the military.

“The goal for us is that we continue to do this and expand, go to more bases and more parts of the country,” he said. “We’d actually like to do preliminaries in the East Coast, Texas and the West Coast, and actually bring the finalists to AT&T Stadium or the Ford Center for the finals in the future. Our expectation is that this is the first of many, many to come.”