Throughout the NFL Draft, selections will be announced by special guests, from Hall of Famers to celebrities.
But there will be others as well, some you likely won't recognize, but their stories will touch you deeply. The NFL has invited individuals and families to announce picks for all 32 teams, many of them selected through charities the league is working with through Draft-A-Thon or others they partner with throughout the year.
The Schmidt Family from West Leechburg, Pa., will be among those participating, announcing one of the Steelers picks on May 1, the third day of the draft when Rounds 4-7 take place.
The Schmidt Family was chosen through TAPS, an organization that provides comfort, care and resources to all those grieving the death of a military loved one. The family suffered the tragic loss of SSG Jonathan Schmidt, a husband, father and son, when he was killed in action while conducting combat operations in Batur Village, Afghanistan on September 1, 2012. Throughout his military career, which began in 2003, he received numerous awards and decorations for his heroics and commitment to protecting the country, including the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (3), National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, and the Army Service Ribbon.
The love of country is only matched by love of Steelers football, as Schmidt and his wife, Natalie, always talked about going to their first Steelers game, but he was lost before they ever had the opportunity. That is why she, along with his son Aiden, and his mothers, Leeann Schmidt and Tammy Sheaffer, were selected to announce one of the Steelers draft picks. Natalie has utilized the TAPS resources but has also been a source of comfort for others, volunteering for local military charities.
Natalie Schmidt sent an email to TAPS regarding the way the Steelers brought the family together, even though Jonathan wasn't born in the area, and now they will be able to honor him on stage at the NFL Draft.
"As someone born and raised in the Pittsburgh area my heart had always bled black and gold," wrote Natalie Schmidt. "My in-laws, Jonathan's parents, are also obsessed with the Steelers and have always had a room dedicated in their home, no matter where they lived as they worked for the federal government and moved often. My husband and I always talked about going to our first Steelers football game together, but I unfortunately never got the chance as he died before we could. As a child he moved a lot. Jonathan never felt like he truly had a 'hometown' other than where he graduated from in Virginia and enlisted in the military. His family's love of Pittsburgh, and knowing that this is where I grew up, always helped him feel at home here.
"I've always wanted to go to a game or do something with the Steelers in his honor. His stepmom has a hard time dealing with his loss and she and his mom won't usually partake in events as it's been hard for them - but I know something like this would really make their day and hopefully feel the love and appreciation they deserve. Everyone moved back to Pennsylvania after we lost Jonathan in 2012, and we have made it our home and where we have tried to pick up the pieces and create a second chapter to our lives."
TAPS Fallen Hero: SSG Jonathan Schmidt, U.S. Army
May 4, 1984 - September 1, 2012
United States Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Schmidt was born on May 4, 1984 in Miami, FL. He graduated from Thomas Dale High School in Petersburg, VA in 2003 and enlisted in the Army in July 2003 as a 37F, Psychological Operations Specialist. After basic training and airborne school at Ft. Benning, he was assigned to Bravo Company, 8th Psychological Operations Battalion in November 2004 and immediately deployed to Iraq.
In November 2006, Staff Sergeant Schmidt volunteered to become an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. He graduated EOD School at Eglin Air Force Base, FL in March 2008 and returned to Ft Bragg with an assignment to the 737th Ordnance Company (EOD) and later to the 767th Ordnance Company (EOD). He became a certified EOD team leader in May 2009, and supported the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the Global Response Force. He led a team during a rotation of duty at the White House and later integrated his team with 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
He deployed to Afghanistan in January 2012 with 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and supported the training of Afghan Commandos for eight months. SSG Jonathan Schmidt was killed in action while conducting combat operations in Batur Village, Afghanistan on September 1, 2012.
SSG Schmidt's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (3), National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, and the Army Service Ribbon. SSG Schmidt had also been awarded the Army Parachutist Badge and EOD Senior Badge.
Jonathan was the kind of person who never met a stranger. He was very outgoing and his smile and laughter could win anyone over. He moved a lot as a child so he learned how to adapt to new situations and make friends. His friends were always treated like family; he loved having get-togethers and being surrounded by his loved ones. He loved to be outside, loved working on and building things, as well as cooking. He also lived by the motto that you treat the janitor the same as you treat the CEO. No one was ever beneath him and he prided himself on the fact that no matter how high he got on the military ladder, he had started from the bottom and worked his way up through blood, sweat and tears.
SSG Schmidt is survived by his loving wife, Natalie M. (Lipsie) Schmidt, who he married December 19, 2006; his son, Aiden L. Schmidt; his mothers, Leeann Schmidt and Tammy Sheaffer; his father, Philip Schmidt, and his wife Bernadette; and his younger brother, Brandon Schmidt.