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Salute to Service: Patriots get competitive hosting pickleball tournament for military

New England Patriots players and alumni joined the Patriots Foundation on Tuesday, hosting a pickleball tournament for more than 40 members of the United States military.

Patriots Pickleball

If you're looking for a competitive atmosphere, look no further than a pickleball tournament between NFL athletes and members of the United States military.

Not a single drop of sweat was spared Tuesday as New England Patriots players and alumni joined the Patriots Foundation and more than 40 members of the Massachusetts National Guard at the Kingsbury Club in Medfield, Mass.

"I think it's very important because of how valuable their role is in our freedom," said defensive back Myles Bryant. "All the rights we have as Americans, these people fight for that. That means a lot to me and I want to show my gratitude to them for that."

Bryant, along with teammates Raekwon McMillan, Jahlani Tavai, Cole Strange, Carl Davis Jr., Matt Sokol, Scotty Washington, and Calvin Munson, all took part in the fun. Former Patriots players Rick Cash and Jonas Gray tagged along, and retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, an avid pickleball player, showed everyone how it was done.

"I took it up probably a few years ago and play in the spring, play in the summer," Scarnecchia said. "It's a lot of fun. I was a former Marine, so I'm proud to be part of this."

The event was part of the NFL's Salute To Service initiative.

The competition started off on a high note, with Cole Strange inviting all servicemen and servicewomen in attendance to New England's Week 9 game against the Indianapolis Colts on behalf of the Patriots organization.

"It was awesome," said Jacob Francis. "A lot of people only get to see these guys on TV or on social media in the limelight. So it's cool to be in a more laid-back style event like this and get to talk to them, get to know them for who they are as people rather than just football players."

Francis, a Tech Sergeant in the Air National Guard, is someone who has dedicated his life to service.

He serves as a Middletown, Rhode Island firefighter in his civilian job, just finished up nursing school, and coaches high school football on top of all that.

As his team gets ready for a playoff run, Tavai, McMillan, and Bryant helped Francis out by recording a shoutout video to wish them luck.

"It's amazing," Francis said, reflecting on the day. 

"I love what the NFL does with Salute to Service, but it makes it even more special when the team you're a fan of is giving back and this involved with the community and the military."

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