Former Naval Academy standout Eric Kettani beat the odds this summer: Despite two years away from football after graduating in 2009 and serving on active duty in the Navy, he managed to make the New England Patriots practice squad. That made him one of just three former service academy players in the NFL, and the only Naval Academy grad among the group.
The Navy has rewarded this remarkable achievement … by denying Kettani leave and recalling him to active duty?
Yesterday Kettani tweeted that he was leaving the Patriots, and today the Boston Herald reported the Navy had denied Kettani’s request for leave and ordered him to report back to his ship in Jacksonville, Fla. So it appears that Kettani’s NFL season (and probably his NFL career) is over.
The Herald also ran an eyebrow-raising blurb from the letter sent to Kettani from the Navy.
“I appreciate your Patriotism and service to our nation and encourage you to pursue your goal to play professional football after completion of your service in the Navy.”
Wow. Either the person who wrote that sentence has no understanding of what it takes to play pro football, or they’re just being an a-hole. Kettani — or any non-star player who is away from the game for years at a time — has about zero shot of making the NFL in their late 20s.
As cruel as the Navy’s actions seem in this case, they are in line with section A of this memo released by the Defense Department in 2007, which says “[w]hile in excess leave status, personnel remain subject to recall to active duty.” Basically, the Navy can do whatever it wants, and Kettani has to salute and follow orders.
But the question here is: What has changed since July — when Kettani reported to training camp — and now? Why allow a sailor this opportunity in the first place if you’re only going to pull the rug out from under him?