Airman, Jaguars take American football to UK's capital

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The National Football League continues its Salute to Service campaign by giving two service members the opportunity to lead rival football teams out of the tunnel and onto the field -- even outside of the United States.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class James Taylor, 100th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, led the Jacksonville Jaguars onto the field Oct. 27, 2013, at Wembley Stadium in London, England, in an international NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers.

When Taylor's leadership found out he was selected for this opportunity, they instructed him to stay after work for a talk, but did not tell him why.

"I was surprised - I thought it was a joke," Taylor said. "I didn't even know about this or that I was considered. It feels pretty good that (my chain of command) did that for me."

Later, his leadership brought him in front of his squadron to announce the news.

Never in Taylor's wildest dreams did he think he'd have the chance to represent his hometown team.

"I never, ever thought I would ever have an opportunity like this," Taylor said. "My whole family back at home is going to be watching, so that's pretty cool."

Growing up in Jacksonville, Taylor was able to attend most of the team's season home games.

"I've been a Jaguars fan my whole life," Taylor said. "I'm really excited to run out on the field with them - I just hope I don't trip and fall."

Little by little, the realization that he would be representing the Air Force in front of thousands of people began to sink in. The gravity of the honor - to lead an NFL team onto the field in the capital of the United Kingdom - has left a strong impression on him.

"It's a great experience. People go their whole lives without an experience like this - I'm honored to do this," he said. "It's crazy. I'm in London, going to a football game and on top of that, I am representing the Air Force."

(Editor's notes: The Salute to Service campaign is designed to unify and elevate the extensive military appreciation work of the NFL and its clubs, according to the official NFL website. Airman Sara V. Summers, 48th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, lead the San Francisco 49ers on to the field. The 501st Combat Support Wing's honor guard team presented the colors while the National Anthem played prior to the start of the game. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost the game against the San Francisco 49ers 42-10.)