Living Legacies

We can all be the man in the arena

Patriots’ Cardona: Practice Service Above Self, On and Off the Field

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During basic training at the U.S. Naval Academy, I was issued a pocket-sized book called Reef Points that I was required to memorize from cover to cover. At the back of the book, on the very last page, is President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, “The Man in the Arena,” which reads:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood …”

Those lines had a deep impact on me when I memorized them 6-and-a-half years ago. Of course, I couldn’t have dreamed that I’d be carrying them with me into a second Super Bowl with the New England Patriots last year. At the time, all I could think about was carrying on my Dad’s legacy and serving side-by-side with the men and women of the United States Navy. These men and women—comprised of all backgrounds and experiences—serving in uniform all over the world demonstrate every day what it means to be “the man in the arena;” what it means to serve others in even the most difficult and challenging circumstances.

Travis Manion, who graduated a few years before me from the Naval Academy, is one of those people. While serving in Iraq in 2007, Travis was killed by an enemy sniper while drawing fire away from his wounded teammates. To anyone who knew Travis, his selflessness came as no surprise. Before his second and final deployment, Travis, a Philadelphia native, attended an Eagles game. While leaving that game, he was asked why it had to be him to return to Iraq for another dangerous assignment, and without hesitation Travis responded, “If Not Me, Then Who…”

To Travis, others came first.

In the Navy we have the saying, “Ship. Shipmate. Self.” It’s not so different from those five words that Travis spoke. And it’s not so different from what we commit to as a team, every time we dress for a game. We commit to the mission first, our teammates second, and ourselves last.

Being “the man in the arena” doesn’t just apply to professional football players and military service members. Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference in our community. That’s why it’s important for me to serve with Travis Manion Foundation (TMF). At TMF, we’re led by veterans and families of the fallen, but we’re open to anyone who is as committed as we are, to strengthening America’s national character. It all begins with those five words, “If Not Me, Then Who…” Inspired by Travis’ commitment to character, we unite communities all over the world to develop character and put it into action by putting others above ourselves.


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Last year, I took on Travis’ beloved Eagles, and this year, we face off against the Rams. The teams change, but my hopes do not. I hope that fans on all sides think about how they can be the change in their own backyard by volunteering their time, and being of service to others.

Settle in this Sunday to watch an exciting Super Bowl LIII, and then accept my challenge and think about how you will be “The Man in Arena…who spends himself in a worthy cause” and join our mission.


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TMF Stats:
001 78,000+ Veterans + Survivors Empowered
002 200,000+ Spartan Members
003 550,000+ Youth Living "If Not Me, Then Who..." Movement