Joe Cardona loves to play football for the Patriots, but his true passion is serving his country — and that service could see its own recognition.

The Patriots named Cardona, the team’s long snapper and a graduate from the Naval Academy, their nominee for the Salute to Service awards. The award recognizes NFL players for their contributions to the military, with finalists announced in January and the recipient the day before the Super Bowl in February.

Cardona said he was just happy to be considered.

“The more I could do to support active, retired, or those family members that support them, that’s one of my big passions,” Cardona said. “Being considered a nominee for an award that embodies that service is just a huge honor.”

Cardona has hosted more than a dozen special re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette, lead a handful of free football clinics at military bases in Massachusetts and is involved with veteran foundations.

The salute to service doesn’t end with the award. Throughout the entire month of November, the NFL is saluting service with players are decked out in camo on the field and off it,  with the net proceeds from Salute to Service merchandise going to honor those in the armed forces.

“To me, it really brings both my worlds together,” Cardona said. “For a lot of my brothers and sisters in uniform to be able to see us go out and represent them with pride on the field, that’s a big thing for them and probably one of one of my greatest joys.”

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