We’ve written about Air Force 2nd Lt. Ben Garland before, when his career paths collided last year and he chose to give up his chance at becoming a pilot for the chance pursue an NFL career.
As we reported, the defensive lineman had to skip the 2011 NFL season and serve on active-duty while applying for the Palace Chase program, part of which allows airmen “early release from active duty to pursue activities with potential recruiting or public affairs benefit to the Department of the Air Force.”
Cut to a year later — his release has been approved, according to this Defense Department-released article, and Garland’s busy making the transition from “Air Force shape” to “knocking over an NFL offensive lineman” shape.
Good news: He had to meet Air Force fitness regs during his year away from football. “Air Force and fitness go hand in hand,” he told Stuart Zaas for this article on the Denver Broncos’ official site.
Bad news: Air Force fitness has limits. Garland said in the DoD article that he’ll need to hang about 300 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame to “stay competitive” in pro football — a number that would’ve made the exercise portion of the Air Force fitness test difficult and the waist-measurement portion darn near impossible. He was an inch under the maximum 39-inch waist limit, he said in the article.
Garland, who anchored stellar defenses at the academy from his nose tackle spot in 2008 and 2009, will be leaving his post as 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs chief of media operations at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. How’d he do off the field? Well, according to public affairs chief Karen Petitt, per the report:
We absolutely adore Lt. Garland! … He’s this big gentle giant with a great laugh, strength of character, and genuine interest in his team. He’s got this amazing gift for details and a memory that keeps us on track with all the taskings that come our way. Everyone just naturally looks to him as a leader, but not because he’s the ‘office linebacker’ like you see on those TV commercials, but because he’s got integrity and charisma, and they know they can depend on him.”
(Note: Too young to remember the “office linebacker”? Do yourself a favor.)
Garland, 23, is one of seven defensive tackles listed on the Broncos’ roster, a number that could swell with the upcoming draft and post-draft free-agent frenzy. It’s unlikely the team will carry even the existing seven on the active roster, meaning Garland’s NFL dreams aren’t reality just yet. Here’s a little more on the offseason team activities Garland will be a part of (including a picture of some guy the Broncos already made roster room for). We hope to have updates as the offseason progresses.