Air Force Players Thought They Would be Allowed to Enter NFL Draft, Find Out Otherwise

AP Photo
The Associated Press

If the military wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one.

So goes the old saying, which seeks to describe how the military frowns upon any and all personal entanglements which may interfere with your commitment to the service.

It’s a principle two Air Force Academy football players were reminded of this weekend.

On Saturday, reports emerged that the Air Force changed its policy on cadets eligible for the NFL draft. A policy had existed where military academy graduates could join the reserves, which allowed those with NFL potential to be drafted and play with a team while still serving in the military.

It’s the same policy which allowed Keenan Reynolds and Joe Cardona, two Naval Academy graduates, to enter the draft and play in the NFL.

However, the Air Force Academy has decided not to allow Jalen Robinette and another player to enter the reserve and go into the NFL Draft. Instead, they will have to serve two years active duty before becoming eligible to join the league. Further complicating the matter is that the players had thought they would be able to enter the draft, and didn’t find out otherwise until this weekend.

According to Pro Football Talk, “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the players had been led to believe throughout the pre-draft process that they could join the NFL. As a result, they spent time and money training for the selection process. Air Force receiver Jalen Robinette even participated in the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine under the clear impression that he would be permitted to play in the NFL. Several other Air Force players went through the pre-draft process, including a Pro Day workout held at the Air Force Academy on March 21.

The players believed NFL opportunities could be pursued, and as recently as Thursday they continued to be under that impression. Most if not all became aware of the change through the Denver Post article communicating the sudden shift in Air Force policy.”

Robinette tweeted about his determination to continue to pursue the dream of playing in the NFL. Saying, “You’re out of your mind if you think I’m gonna let someone else hang up my cleats. Momma raised me better than that.”

While it’s certainly awful to go through a football season, a draft preparation process, the Senior Bowl, Combine, and all the things that go into that, only to find out you can’t go into the draft, and the Air Force definitely could have done a better job communicating to the players that they would not be allowed to enter the draft this year, the players did join the Air Force.

As anyone who has served in the military knows, all things are subject to the good of the service. The service academies exist to provide future military leaders for our nation’s defense. They do not exist to provide the Patriots with guys who can run a good seam route.

Other than the Coast Guard, the Air Force is our smallest branch of our wildly under-manned and overstretched military. A tough spot, especially when considering how often air power becomes our political leadership’s weapon of choice.

Not only that, the Air Force has paid for the education and training of these men. They have every right to insist they live up to their end of the bargain.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn