Caleb Campbell, a safety out of West Point, has been drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
At 218, he’s going to be one of the last players chosen this year but, because of the circumstances surrounding the pick, ESPN has been featuring him heavily in its coverage today. The Army has changed its rules to allow its graduates to go directly to the NFL and, if they can make the team, to fulfill their obligation via recruiting duty and service in the Army Reserve. I discussed this rule change almost exactly two years ago at OTB. Since its inception, this is the first time that it has been invoked.
Only a handful of elite athletes have gone on the play major sports. Navy’s Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys) and David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) are the most prominent examples. Air Force’s Chad Henning (Dallas Cowboys) and Navy’s Napolean McCallum (Los Angeles Raiders) are other. All of them except McCallum, who was granted waivers because he was too tall after a growth spurt as a sophomore, were required to serve five years of active duty before joining their teams. Obviously, this both impedes the ability of the academies to recruit blue chip athletes and hinders the pro sports potential of graduates.
The ESPN coverge on Campbell focused on the fact that his classmates will graduate and serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking death, while he’s just going to have to risk concussions. But the amount of positive coverage his story is generating shows why the military thought this rule change worth making.
His gaining coach at Detroit, Rod Marinelli, is a Vietnam vet. His first coach at Army, Bobby Ross, is also a veteran — and, oddly enough, a former head coach of the Detroit Lions.
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