Wood’s selection as the recipient of the award was announced via Twitter ahead of the awards show by the ESPYS.
As a teenage offensive lineman, Wood was in the midst of his first season as a Wisconsin Badger in 2001 when the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11.
Looking to the first responders who risked their lives to save others, Wood joined the Marine Corps in 2004 following the conclusion of his Wisconsin football career.
Wood served four years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a scout sniper, and was eventually promoted to sergeant before he was honorably discharged from the Corps in 2009.
In 2010, Wood organized and put together a relief team comprised of veterans, first responders and medical workers to help out in Haiti after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation.
The relief team marked the birth of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that Wood co-founded and leads as CEO, dedicated to transitioning veterans from military service to disaster response and relief.
Team Rubicon has responded to more than 250 disasters since its inception. The name “Rubicon” references the risky journey across the Rome’s Rubicon River.
According to a press release from ESPN, the Pat Tillman Award for Service was established in 2014 to commemorate the former NFL player and Army Ranger’s legacy.
The award is intended to be given to an individual who has a strong connection to sports but serves others in a way that echoes the work and legacy of Tillman.
Tillman played for the Arizona Cardinals before leaving the NFL in 2002, driven by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to serve in the Army. Tillman died in April 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.
“In Pat Tillman I found a man of courage and conviction, and his sacrifice inspired me to serve,” Wood said to ESPN. “Since 2001, millions of Americans have answered their nation’s call to service, and my time in the Marine Corps was by no means different.
“Today, as a small part of Team Rubicon, I’m surrounded by these very same men and women — joined together on a team committed to serving others. As I think of this award, I can’t help but think that if Pat were still alive that he’d be wearing Team Rubicon’s iconic Greyshirt and serving alongside us.”
Past honorees include U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player and Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney (2014); former Notre Dame basketball player, Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (2015); Army sergeant and Invictus Games gold medalist Elizabeth Marks (2016); and Purple Heart recipient and Invictus Games gold medalist Israel Del Toro (2017).