2011 NFL-Tillman Military Scholar, Navy Petty Officer Third Class D’Onior Felton of Clarksdale, Mississippi, was recognized this past Sunday, December 11 before the Washington Redskins game against the New England Patriots at FedEx Field.
In June 2010, the NFL and Pat Tillman Foundation established the NFL-Tillman Military Scholar award to annually honor an individual who exemplifies Pat’s enduring legacy of service. The scholarship is part of the Tillman Military Scholars program established by the Pat Tillman Foundation to support educational opportunities for veterans and active service members and their spouses by filling the financial gaps in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The Tillman Military Scholars program covers direct study-related expenses such as tuition and books, as well as other basic needs such as housing and childcare.
D’Onior, who is currently a medical student at George Washington University, developed a passion for medicine while serving in the Navy as a surgical technologist. During that time, she gained the confidence to interact with physicians and set her sights on becoming a doctor one day. Felton earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland University College while serving on active duty. After discharging in 2005, she completed all the necessary pre-med prerequisites and applied to medical school.
“D’Onior’s military experience and training opened her eyes to a career she had never really considered,” said Marie Tillman, Chair and President of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “As a doctor, she wants to provide health care to underserved communities in the southern U.S. and through her career in public health, carry on Pat’s legacy of leadership and service. It’s an honor to recognize her as this year’s NFL-Tillman Military Scholar.”
Felton plans to enter pediatric or emergency medicine for her residency, with a focus on infectious disease. Her aim is to eventually practice medicine in a medically underserved community of the U.S. while also working with a community health care center near to her home state of Mississippi.
“We are pleased to continue our work with the Tillman Foundation on the NFL-Tillman Military Scholar program,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Pat Tillman means so much to the NFL family, and we congratulate D’Onior on receiving this year’s honor.”
Since the Foundation’s inception, the NFL has recognized Tillman’s heroic sacrifice for his country in a variety of ways that celebrate his memory.
UPDATE: Inaugural NFL-Tillman Military Scholar, Patrick Nelson, completed his bachelor’s degree in sports management and history in May and started a master’s in sports management this semester. This past year, Nelson interned with the Minnesota Vikings.