Illinois' Zook will visit troops on USO tour

Illinois' Ron Zook is among five college football coaches who will visit U.S. troops in Europe and Asia later this month as part of a USO tour.

Zook and four of his coaching colleagues -- Army's Rich Ellerson, Oregon's Chip Kelly, Harvard's Tim Murphy and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville -- will embark on an eight-stop, nine-day tour to Germany and Southwest Asia. The coaches will conduct autograph and photo sessions and participate in panel discussions. They also will oversee flag football games and other athletic competitions with the troops.

The tour is presented by the USO and Morale Entertainment, and will embark from McConnell Air Force in Kansas in several weeks.

"This visit to our troops will be very inspiring," Zook said in a statement. "I want to make sure they understand we appreciate all that they do to make our world a better place to live. Our men and women serving in the armed forces put their lives on the line every day to help defend freedom, and, if in some small way our visit can help to motivate them, our time will be very well spent."

The five coaches are tentatively scheduled to visit the White House after they return from the tour.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel participated on a similar tour last year.

The tour will take on added meaning for Zook, whose father was in the Air Force and whose brother served in Vietnam. Zook told Rivals.com, "It's an honor and a privilege to be able to go over there and help those people who allow us to live the life that we enjoy."