A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and running back for the New England Patriots has been ordered to report for duty aboard a Navy ship in Jacksonville.
Eric Kettani, who made the news after making the team's practice squad, requested a leave from active duty that would allow him to continue on with the Patriots but his request was denied.
Kettani said he hopes to get back to his NFL career but knows he must follow orders.
“I love my country and I’m happy to serve it, but I’m also happy to be a New England Patriot,” Kettani told Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.
According to NBC, athletes from the military academies are obligated to fulfill a five-year commitment to the armed services upon graduating. Often the ones drafted or signed by NFL teams are typically granted leave to pursue their athletic careers. However, the Navy had something different in mind for Kettani:
“As our nation is at war, it is important to ensure we maintain our commitment to the nation’s defense,” the letter from the Navy said. “As such, a release from active duty would be inconsistent with that effort."
"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.”
NBC points out that the famous Navy graduate to play in the NFL was Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach:
The Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the tenth round of the 1964 draft, but he couldn't join the team until 1969, as a 27-year-old rookie. In his 10-year carrer, he led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls, including the team's championship in 1972.
So despite having to complete military service and defer his NFL career, Kettani could still have a bright future in professional sports ahead of him.