Eric Kettani is an impressive football player. He finished his career at the Naval Academy with a 125-yard rushing performance in a rout of Army and he scored a touchdown in the Senior Bowl. In fact, Kettani has played so well that he’s earned himself some serious attention from NFL scouts, who want to see him compete at the NFL Combine and, potentially, as a fullback in the NFL. There’s just one problem: The military won’t let him go.
According to a story in the BALTIMORE SUN, Kettani was told that he won’t be allowed to compete in the NFL until after he fulfills his five-year military obligation, a pledge all students at Navy or Army make when the accept their free, government-funded elite education.
It’s exactly the same scenario as what faecd Army linebacker Caleb Campbell last year, with the difference being that Campbell was actually drafted by the Lions, then told he couldn’t sign a professional contract after the fact.
The same determination was made by Naval Academy Vice Admiral Jeff Fowler, except he made the call before the draft, saving some team a draft pick.
“A number of factors were considered,” Navy spokesman Joe Carpenter said. “But he was denied participation because it wouldn’t be consistent with current Navy efforts to support active duty readiness during war time. His participation could incorrectly imply that the Navy would support in him pursuing a professional football career immediately after graduation.”
We understand that students at the military academies are signing up for half a decade of military service when they accept their scholarships. It’s just part of the deal. Still, we can’t help but feel that letting Campbell and Kettani play in the NFL might have served a greater good for both institutions in the long run. Not only would they have raised the profile of both military branches — any sports connection in the public eye invariably does, just look at the spread of military-backed NASCAR entries — but it also would have shown the American public a more flexible and, dare we say, adjustable military. Whether it’s true or not, that’s never a bad image to send out to an American public that’s increasingly resistant to the idea of sending its children into foreign battlegrounds.
Maybe we’re wrong, but this might be a case of the military shooting itself in the foot while trying to adhere to its principles. That’s generally a laudable concept, but in this case, it might also be counterproductive.