Air Force receiver Jalen Robinette was expected to be drafted today, but a policy preventing him from deferring military service may change that.
The Air Force Academy said in a statement that Robinette or any other player drafted will be required to serve on active duty for two years, meaning his NFL career wouldn’t be able to start until the 2019 season at the earliest.
“The Air Force notified Academy officials [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military service commitments for cadet athletes,” the statement said, via the Denver Post. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve status, which would permit their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”
Last year the Department of Defense adopted a new policy that allowed service academy athletes to serve in the reserves, rather than active duty, so that they could begin their athletic careers immediately after graduating. That policy worked out well for Ravens receiver Keenan Reynolds and long snapper Joe Cardona, both of whom were allowed to go straight from the Naval Academy to the NFL.
But the policy handled players’ requests on a case-by-case basis, and while the Naval Academy allowed Reynolds and Cardona to play, the Air Force Academy is not allowing Robinette to play. Barring a change in policy, Robinette won’t play in the NFL until 2019.