Air Force Academy defensive end Ben Garland watched the NFL Draft with a hope, but not an expectation to get a call from an NFL team. Names kept running across the bottom of the screen of ESPN’s draft coverage when Garland’s phone starting ringing. The Denver Broncos asked if he wanted to go to their mini-camp.
Garland never expected to garner any NFL interest. Not until the Air Force Academy’s strength and conditioning coach approached him after the Falcons’ bowl game had anyone ever mentioned it.
It’s not that Garland didn’t have the type of standout senior year that leads to NFL dreams. He was named second-team All-Mountain West Conference after finishing the season with 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss . He also forced a fumble and blocked two kicks.
However, Garland has a active duty commitment to fulfill after he graduates this Spring. He must serve at least two years before he can apply for release from his five year active duty commitment.
Five years could turn into ten if he accepts the pilot slot he earned at the Academy. Garland said he’ll probably turn down his spot in pilot training, though, because he wants to pursue a spot on an NFL roster.
Last weekend he spent three days working out with the Denver Broncos at Doug Valley, Col. Garland said the practices were not too much different than the ones at the Academy except for the speed.
“These guys are superb athletes. I noticed that right away,” he said.
Garland didn’t receive much feedback from coaches, but he intends to continue to fine tune his game over the next two years. He’s not sure where he is going to get stationed, but he’s excited to pin on his lieutenant bars.
“It’s always been my dream to be an Air Force officer. That’s why I came here. I received offers at other schools but I wanted to join a real elite group and become an officer.”
Other Air Force football players that made the leap to NFL teams have reached out to support Garland, including former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Chad Hennings.
“A lot of those guys called me. That’s what it’s about being here,” Garland said. “[Hennings] said the most important thing is to fulfill your duty to the Air Force.”