Temple Owl is the Eagles’ nominee for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award
Cristian Narino Garcia, STH ’22, facilities operations coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, is a nominee for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award.
On Oct. 22, as the Philadelphia Eagles prepared to take on the Miami Dolphins, Cristian Narino Garcia, STH ’22, was taking part in his regular pregame duties as the team’s facilities operations coordinator. It was then that he received the surprise of a lifetime.
Previously unbeknownst to him, Dom Smolenski, Philadelphia Eagles president, let Garcia know that he would be the Eagles’ NFL Salute to Service Award nominee for 2023. The award, presented by USAA, honors the unwavering efforts by veterans and active-duty service members who are a part of the NFL community.
“My brother and mom, who are also big Eagles fans, were in town to visit me, so I invited them to experience being on ground level prior to the game,” said Garcia. “My family, who have always been truly supportive, knew prior that Dom was going to make the announcement, but I had no idea, so it was a great surprise.
“Most people in the military will agree that we don’t do it for recognition, but it was a great feeling, and I am really thankful,” he added.
In Garcia’s role with the Eagles, he contributes to overall event logistics and breakdown, and supports innovative projects around the facilities while maintaining key vendor relationships to ensure things operate smoothly at Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex.
“The operations department gave me a wide knowledge about what it takes to create, run and review an event and project,” he said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to work with great people who are part of my day-to-day life.”
In addition, he is a dedicated Air National Guard active member, spending a weekend every month and one to two weeks every year training with other reserve members.
Garcia’s job titles in the Air Force were warehouse coordinator, contracting officer representative and fitness NCO. He became proficient in all aspects of services and operations, which include culinary services, facility and lodging operations, fitness operations, and search and recovery. (Photo courtesy of Cristian Narino Garcia)
A native of Colombia, Garcia has followed an impressive path that led him to his current role with the Eagles.
In 2013, he moved from Colombia to Jacksonville, Florida, to live on Naval Station Mayport with his then stepfather, who worked for the U.S. Navy. Having a support system that helped him learn English while living on a Navy base inspired him to serve the country.
“When I first moved to the U.S., I was welcomed and received much support,” he said. “Growing up on a Navy base, I saw several of the duties that take place. I also learned from veterans at my church, who inspired me to join the military to give back.”
During his four years of active duty in the Air Force, he was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida. He was deployed twice, in 2017 and 2018, to the United Arab Emirates during Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S. military operation for the international war in Iraq and Syria. During deployment, he researched colleges with a sports management program due to his passion for pursuing a career in the sports industry. Attending Temple University piqued his interest.
“Temple was always at the top of my list because of their sports management program. I never lived in a big city until I moved to Philadelphia, so that was a key factor,” he said. “At Temple, I knew I would get to experience being at a school with Division I athletics and help me get connected with professional sports teams in the city.”
After he was accepted to Temple, he joined the Sport and Governance Association, a student organization for students interested in pursuing a career in sports run by the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM). Through an STHM program, he and other students took a trip to London, which allowed him to learn about the sports industry in other global markets.
He also volunteered for the Eagles and was a member of the Temple Veterans Association, a space for military-connected students who share the experience of serving their country.
Garcia was hired to perform retail duties for the Eagles Pro Shop at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. In 2022, he received the position of seasonal associate for marketing entertainment teams, where he joined the Eagles’ drumline, cheerleaders and Swoop, the team’s mascot for occasions and events. (Photo courtesy of Cristian Narino Garcia)
While at Temple, Garcia achieved his highest military promotion, to staff sergeant. His new role required him to prioritize leadership accountability, fitness, logistics and administration.
“I was in charge of leading the department, where I was assigned different areas of work like ensuring the paperwork and quality assurance was correct, and that the troops met the fitness standards so they were ready to deploy within 24 to 72 hours,” he said. “My overall goal was making sure the mission is complete, but also being a mentor to help others achieve their goals in the future.”
Garcia left active duty to join the Air National Guard in 2019. During the pandemic, he and his fellow Air National Guard members had a mission to support mortuaries around Philadelphia because of the rising death toll. All the while, he continued to pursue his education at Temple.
In 2022, Garcia graduated with a sport and recreation management degree. He credits Amy Giddings, chair of the Department of Sport and Recreation Management at STHM, preparing him for a job in the sports industry.
“I’ve always liked the sports industry because it is a great opportunity to impact the community through building relationships and putting smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “Dr. Giddings was one of my top mentors. The support I received from her and Temple helped me to be in the position I am in today.
“My role with the Eagles has impacted my professional and personal life by allowing me to be part of a great group of professionals who are looking to positively impact the local community and create new and better experiences for all the fans,” he added.
The NFL will announce the Salute to Service Award winner for 2023 at the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 8.