New policy eases Army, Navy, Air Force players’ path to the NFL

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Football players at the three service academies — Army, Navy and Air Force — haven’t always had a direct path to the NFL. Some, like Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, have had to serve in active duty for five years before playing pro football. Others, like former Raiders running back Napoleon McCallum, have been allowed to play football while also serving in the military, but had to take seasons off when their military service required. And still others, like Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds, have been cleared to go straight to the NFL without military service getting in the way.

A new Department of Defense policy will allow all players to follow Reynolds’ path to the NFL.

The new policy, obtained by the Colorado Springs Gazette, states that service academy graduates with offers to play pro sports can serve in the reserves, rather than active duty, so that they can pursue their athletic careers. The new policy will make it much easier for players to go directly to the NFL after playing football at Army, Navy and Air Force.

The policy will also make star high school athletes with NFL dreams more likely to consider the service academies. It’s currently rare for top recruits to even consider Army, Navy or Air Force.

Not everyone thinks that’s a good idea. After Reynolds was granted permission to go straight to the Ravens rather than serving in active duty first, retired Army lieutenant colonel Tom Slear wrote in the Washington Post that the reason the taxpayers pay for tuition-free service academy education is to strengthen America’s armed forces, not to provide the NFL with future players.

“They exist to instill young men and women with a mind-set of selfless service to the country. There is no other justification for the significant public expense that supports them,” Slear wrote, “Professional football, on the other hand, is about service to oneself. It has its place, but not for academy graduates who haven’t fulfilled their obligations to their fellow citizens. Each time one of them leaves early, the ethos diminishes a bit, and the taxpayers are cheated.”

Those concerns aside, Reynolds is going straight to the NFL. And more service academy players will follow.

20 responses to “New policy eases Army, Navy, Air Force players’ path to the NFL

  1. The reserves? So they will actually have to serve one full weekend during each month, including during the season, and 30 full days every summer? And if their unit is called up they will have to deploy overseas? Or will they get a pass on all that as well?

  2. Silly me, I thought the public funded service academies existed to create the future leaders that would keep our country safe. I guess even the military cringes before the wrath of Roger.

  3. Idiotic policy. The LTC is exactly right: taxpayers now funding someone’s NFL dreams rather than that $$$ going to serving the defense of our nation. Plus, wouldn’t this make academy students focus more on playing football rather than actually studying, becoming an officer, and contributing much more to this world? As a military war vet, this policy, as stated, is idiotic.

  4. It seems it’d be a lot more sensible if they offered to let them out of their service requirements in exchange for paying for their tuition. There’s no complaints about the public purse that way.

  5. I kind of agree with Tom Slear here. But I also believe there is a PR benefit to Armed Forces recruiting for these guys to play in the pros. I think it should truly be handled on a case by case basis. I don’t like that the policy simply states you can do reserve duty if you can play in the pros. And what do they mean by pros? Only the NFL? Because technically the CFL is pro also right?

  6. bocadiver1 says:
    Jul 13, 2016 9:47 AM

    Silly me, I thought the public funded service academies existed to create the future leaders that would keep our country safe. I guess even the military cringes before the wrath of Roger.


    The positive publicity that can come from a cadet making the NFL and becoming a spokesperson then serving after their NFL career is over can’t be undervalued. Think big picture buddy

  7. I am a tax payer and I am ok with this policy. Moves like this help prospective recruits and their parents look more favorable on military service so it will help with recruitment. Look how the Navy used David “the Admiral” Robinson.

  8. The football teams at these service academies probably bring in more money than the taxpayers dollars, ie: game ticket sales, jerseys, concessions, publicity, etc… and they are not shunning their duties, they are still reservists, and probably may go to active duty once they are done with their short pro career

  9. I’m fine with the policy… on one condition: graduates who forgo active service to play professional sports must pay back the military academy they attended for the tuition they didn’t have to pay. If you’re earning millions of dollars playing for the NFL, you can afford to pay back the taxpayers for the free education you got.

  10. Considering we’re all on PFT reading a post about military academies, I’d say Keenan has already saved the tax payers whatever the DoD would have had to have paid in advertisements to get this level of visibility. There’s plenty of people on active duty who have never deployed or even left the US, I see no difference between their service to that of Keenan or anyone else for that matter…There’s more than a few ways to be able to serve one’s country

  11. Twenty-eight year (and counting) Navy veteran with 11 years active and 17 years reserve service, and I have no problem with this policy. They’re still serving in the reserves, and will be subject to recall. Thousands of new ensigns/2nd lt’s commission each year, and the majority of them serve their initial commitment and get out. I doubt that more than a handful of guys will be able to take advantage of this policy each year, and I think they will be more valuable to the service through positive PR than they likely would be by serving for 5 years on active duty as just another junior officer.

  12. I also do not agree with this policy. It’s simply at odds with the primary purpose of the service academies – to populate our armed forces with top level officers.

    Options could include some combination of deferred active service (following football career) or tuition repayment.

  13. biancaneri says:

    It seems it’d be a lot more sensible if they offered to let them out of their service requirements in exchange for paying for their tuition. There’s no complaints about the public purse that way.

    No, because they would still be wasting a space in an academy that is very difficult to get chosen for. Staubach served four years, deployed to a combat zone and still had a fine NFL career.

    Rangers Lead The Way.

  14. From a management perspective, another problem with “exception” policies is that they are a slippery slope – where does it stop?

    If a service academy grad is also a fantastic artist, or electrician, or writer…do they get to pursue that career upon graduation? If the answer is “no”, then you should not grant a pro sports exception.

    Policies for one must also be good for many, or they are poor policies.

  15. Because pro football (and a bit of PR for the services) is so much more important than defeating ISIS, Al Qaeda, et. al……..

  16. Give the kid a break, how much satisfaction can there be going to a 5-win team.

  17. Simple solution to this….When players get picked up by NFL teams, have them pay their tuition back with their large new contracts.

  18. Good news for Weston Steelhammer – a great DB from Air Force. I hope the media gives him the attention he deserves and he gets drafted fairly early.

  19. thank about who many players from elite schools get into the nfl each year of each team not a whole lot so….i think if theses boys can have fun playing football and get adegree at the same time and have a slight hope they may go to the nfl is a good thing…..and at the end of the day its a win win because thell have a millitary career they can fall back on2 and we as americans will have the best of the best keeping us safe…..i dont think ppl should bitch at the ones that may get into the nfl because its a awesome thing for these kids… and it sounds kinda dumpy to say but not to many nfl teams are looking at the navy army and airfore teams for there next big thing eevry now and then they come along but i think for the most part these boys have to kno that be4 they even apply to these schools, not knocking them its just they dont recruit and focus hard on the football side of thangs and try to spend build a team thats gonna go all pro..they just give these boys a chance to play ball and have fun and if they happen to turn out to be NFL material then hey thats great

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