Jake Wood was a freshman offensive lineman with the Wisconsin Badgers when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Inspired by the first responders who risked their lives while trying to help others, and by former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman’s selfless sacrifice, Wood joined the United States Marine Corps. He was eventually promoted to Sergeant and served four years in Iraq and Afghanistan, deployed as a Scout Sniper. Wood earned the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal during his time of service, and since being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2009, Wood has committed to advocating for veterans in the United States. He has actively lobbied Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama on veteran transition and disaster response and has testified before a Senate committee on improving mental health services for veterans. For his dedication to serving others, Wood, the co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, will receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service sponsored by Bonobos when The 2018 ESPYS presented by Capital One air live Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Upon returning to civilian life, Wood saw the difficulties some veterans struggled with upon leaving active duty. But on January 10, 2010, Wood found a way to help veterans and also assist those in greatest need. On that day, disaster struck Haiti in the form of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. When he saw the devastation left in the wake of the tremor, Wood and fellow Marine William McNulty galvanized a group of veterans, first responders and medical workers and headed to the island nation with supplies in tow. This marked the beginning of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transitioning veterans from military service to disaster response and relief. Team Rubicon leverages veterans’ existing skill sets to rapidly deploy emergency response teams while providing veterans with a sense of purpose, community and identity.
“In Pat Tillman I found a man of courage and conviction, and his sacrifice inspired me to serve,” said Jake Wood. “Since 2001, millions of Americans have answered their nation’s call to service, and my time in the Marine Corps was by no means different. Today, as a small part of Team Rubicon, I’m surrounded by these very same men and women – joined together on a team committed to serving others. As I think of this award, I can’t help but think that if Pat were still alive that he’d be wearing Team Rubicon’s iconic Greyshirt and serving alongside us.”
Since its inception, Team Rubicon has responded to over 250 disasters and has evolved from a small group of eight to 80,000 volunteers. The organization focuses on areas and populations that are often overlooked or underserved by traditional aid organizations. In addition, Team Rubicon has mirrored the nearly 50 country-strong coalition force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan by connecting with coalition veterans globally and has helped to establish Team Rubicon satellite organizations around the world.
“Pat was motivated by a strong determination and commitment to teamwork,” said Marie Tillman, Chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Through his leadership of Team Rubicon, Jake is challenging fellow veterans to stay on the front line and lead by example in their communities. In Pat’s name, we’re honored to present the Tillman Award to Jake and Team Rubicon for their service to our country.”
The Pat Tillman Award for Service was established in 2014 to commemorate the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger’s legacy, and honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of Tillman. Sgt. Wood will be presented with the award at The 2018 ESPYS in conjunction with the Pat Tillman Foundation, a national leader in providing academic support and scholarships to veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses. Past honorees include U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player and Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney (2014), and former Notre Dame basketball player, Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (2015), U.S. Army Sgt. and Invictus Games gold medalist Elizabeth Marks (2016), and Purple Heart recipient and Invictus Games gold medalist Israel Del Toro (2017).