Van Eeghen Is Raiders Nominee for NFL, USAA Salute to Service Award
by Tom LaMarre
Fittingly on Veterans Day, former running back Mark van Eeghen was honored as the Oakland Raiders’ nominee for the ninth annual “Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.”
The award is presented annually by USAA and the NFL to honor a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
USAA holds the designation of Official NFL Salute to Service Partner.
The 67-year-old Van Eeghen, who played eight seasons for the Raiders and two with the New England Patriots, is the father of a major in the United States Air Force and was nominated for his commitment and dedication to the nation’s military.
During the Raiders’ trip to London to play the Chicago Bears in October, Van Eeghen, along with Raiders players, visited the Royal Air Force Mildenhall Base in Suffolk, England, to meet with and support troops stationed at the base.
Van Eeghen met with active duty Airmen and their families, passed out Raiders gear, posed for pictures, signed autographs and was presented with a commander’s coin by the base’s commanding officer.
Ahead of the international matchup between the Raiders and Bears, Van Eeghen and other NFL alumni welcomed families of fallen heroes from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to the team’s morning walkthrough practice, handed out gift bags with Raiders memorabilia and led a tour of the team’s practice facility.
Each of the Raiders’ position groups represented the name of a different fallen hero on the back of their jersey, and after practice the players joined Van Eeghen and the alumni to meet with the families to sign autographs and take pictures.
Van Eeghen was selected by the Raiders in the third round (No. 75) overall of the 1974 NFL Draft out of Colgate and was a starter through his career in Oakland. He rushed for 73 yards as the Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI after the 1976 season, and had 73 yards as the Sliver and Black defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV after the 1980 season.
A 6-2, 233-pound fullback, Van Eeghen finished with 6,651 yards rushing, 174 receptions for 1,583 receiving yards, and 41 touchdowns (37 rushing and four receiving).
Past recipients of the award include Ben Garland (2018), Andre Roberts (2017), Dan Quinn (2016), Vincent Jackson (2015), Jared Allen (2014), John Harbaugh (2013), Charles Tillman (2012), and the late Tennessee Titans owner, K.S. “Bud” Adams, a World War II veteran (2011).
Finalists for the award are announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors awards show in Miami on Saturday, Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl.