Retired players lend their voices to statewide vaccine awareness and education campaign, urging Tennesseans to protect themselves from COVID-19, talk to their health care providers about getting vaccinated

NASHVILLE, TN (December 13, 2022) – The NFL Alumni Association (NFL Alumni) and Tennessee Department of Health today kicked off the “GEAR UP, Tennessee!” statewide COVID-19 vaccine awareness and education campaign urging residents to protect themselves and their families and to talk to their health care providers to get the facts about vaccination.

The GEAR UP! campaign will feature former NFL stars and Tennessee Titans legends, including Hall of Famer and All-Pro quarterback and Titans Ring of Honor member Warren Moon, former Titans All-Pro defensive end Jevon Kearse, and NFL Alumni Tennessee Chapter President and former Houston Oilers All-Pro linebacker Al Smith.

NFL Alumni is teaming up with Nashville and Davidson County Mayor’s Office—who joined the kick-off announcement today—as well as other public and private sector leaders and community organizations across the state, to hold public events, townhalls, listening sessions, and mobile vaccine clinics to remind people that COVID-19 is still here and is something we all need to protect against. The campaign will also include media interviews, public service announcements and social media to raise awareness.

“On the field, I always wore a helmet and pads to make sure I was protected; life is no different.  That is why I chose to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Moon. “I would encourage anyone with questions about getting vaccinated or boosted to speak to their health care providers so they can make an informed decision to protect themselves and their families.”

Nearly 100 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. and more than one million Americans have died, including over 28,000 Tennesseans since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Tennessee Department of Health. 

“We have come a long way since the height of the pandemic, but unfortunately, much like other viruses, COVID-19 is likely here to stay,” said Smith. “Through the GEAR UP! campaign, the NFL Alumni hopes to educate underserved communities in Nashville and surrounding areas on the importance of the vaccine and encourage anyone with concerns to make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.”

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a personal choice and a way to take charge of your health by protecting yourself and your family from the most serious impacts of the disease and is a step toward bringing our communities back to life.

“We all want to stay in the game, but protection from COVID-19 is what keeps us in the game,” said Kearse. “It allows us to live our normal lives, see the people we love, visit the places we love, and do the work we love with fewer disruptions. Talk to your health care provider and make an informed decision.”

Former NFL players lending their voices to the “GEAR UP, Tennessee!” campaign also include:

  • Blaine Bishop, former Tennessee Titans, four-time Pro Bowl safety
  • Brad Hopkins, former Tennessee Titans, two-time Pro Bowl tackle
  • Chris Johnson, former Tennessee Titans, three-time Pro Bowl running back
  • Neil O’Donnell, former Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl quarterback
  • Chris Sanders, former Tennessee Titans wide receiver
  • Delanie Walker, former Tennessee Titans, three-time Pro Bowl tight end.

According to the CDC, more than 650 million vaccine doses have been administered across the U.S and have proven to be safe and effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Approximately 70 percent of Americans and 48 percent of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated. However, less than 14 percent nationwide have received the latest bivalent booster and about five percent of Tennesseans have received the new bivalent booster shot that includes added protection for the most recent COVID-19 variants.

“Tennessee has come a long way since the start of the pandemic and we celebrate how life has returned to normal for Tennesseans,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Morgan McDonald, MD, FACP, FAAP.  “Much of that return to normal has been because of the vaccine, and protecting yourself and your loved ones by getting a vaccine is still the best, and most safe, way to prevent the worst impacts of the virus. We are thrilled to partner with the NFL Alumni Association as we urge Tennesseans to get a COVID vaccine and booster so we can continue to do the things we love and be with the ones we love for many years to come.”

“As a former educator and public-school principal, I know firsthand how important knowledge can be to our neighborhoods and communities,” said Nashville Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement Brenda Haywood. “Education campaigns like ‘Gear Up’ and our Communities of Color Initiative are how we spread knowledge about the COVID vaccine to everyone, especially our black and brown communities in Nashville. I’m so grateful to the NFL Alumni Association and our partners at the Tennessee Department of Health for adding yet another way we can educate residents about how to stay healthy and protect themselves against the COVID virus.”   

Despite widespread availability of vaccines and the emergence of new variants, millions of Americans have not yet opted to get vaccinated. The NFL Alumni effort encourages individuals who may be “on the fence” to talk with trusted health care providers and make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.

The NFL Alumni has supported similar initiatives in states across the country. Those initiative have included dozens of events held in more than 20 markets to promote vaccine confidence, which were held in collaboration with NFL Alumni local chapters, state and local health departments, local health care providers, and other community-based organizations.

More than 120 current and former NFL players, including 35 world champions, 46 Pro Bowlers, and 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have participated in NFL Alumni’s work related to vaccination.  The initiative has included more than 40 events held in more than 20 markets across the country to promote vaccine confidence which were held in collaboration with NFL Alumni local chapters, state and local health departments, local health care providers, and other community-based organizations.

About NFL Alumni
Founded in 1967 by a small group of successful retired NFL players, NFL Alumni is one of the oldest and most well-respected retired player organizations in professional sports. NFL Alumni’s triple mission focuses on “caring for our own,” “caring for kids,” and “caring for the community.”  NFL Alumni Tennessee is one of more than 40 local NFL Alumni chapters nationwide. For more information, visit