MOBILE, AL – West Point graduate Brett Toth is a top offensive line prospect in the 2018 NFL draft.
The massive offensive tackle, who stands 6-6 and weighs 303 pounds, is the first Army football player invited to the Senior Bowl, a yearly event in Mobile, AL, where college prospects show their wares for NFL scouts.
With controversy swirling around the NFL regarding national anthem protests by some players, what does this soldier, aspiring to play pro football, think about this hot-button issue?
“There is a bunch of character development at West Point,” Toth said on Thursday after Senior Bowl practice. “You learn to see different perspectives. I doubt that anyone that protested, did that with the intent of protesting the military.
“All the guys who ended up [protesting during the anthem], when they do vouch for themselves, they do say that is not the reason. There is stuff that happens in the United States that plenty of people frown upon, and it’s an extreme measure to kind of voice their opinion. At the end of the day, I understand where some come from and I’m not going to judge them.”
And while he refused to condemn his fellow football players protesting during the anthem, he wants to make it clear, “Personally, I won’t kneel for that just because of what the flag means to me.”
And what does the flag mean to Toth?
“A bunch of my family was in the military, almost every branch,” Toth said. “There are a lot of people who made the ultimate sacrifice, and where I have been at West Point, you see the flag there, and that is what I correlate it too. For me, it’s pride in this country.”
In September, Toth’s fellow Army offensive lineman, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, created national news when he came out of the tunnel for the anthem before a game against Chicago, when the rest of his teammates remained in the tunnel. Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, who served in Afghanistan, felt terrible about how this looked.
“When everybody sees the image of me by myself, everybody thinks the team, the Steelers, are not behind me, and that’s absolutely wrong,” Villanueva said. “I made Coach [Mike] Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only.”
As a West Point graduate, Toth understands why Villanueva felt that way.
“I completely understand what he [said],” Toth said. “Soldiers, and soon to be officers, it’s all about uniformity. You don’t want to stand out. If you are the only person somewhere, something is usually wrong. It was kind of a miscommunication. You could see in the picture, his teammates, they are still right behind him. Whether it was a media outlet portraying it a different way or not. He’s a great man.”
Like Villanueva, Toth is going to have to wait a few years before he can play in the NFL. He must fulfill his military commitment first.
“It’s two years and if things end up changing, whether it is less service or more service, that will come down to me at a later time, and as it happens, I will communicate to the teams,” Toth said.
If Toth had attended a regular four-year college, he would be eligible for the NFL immediately, so does he regret his decision to go to West Point?
“Absolutely not,” Toth said. “I can’t imagine going any other route, really.”
Why is that?
“My maturation process was unbelievable going there,” Toth said. “My parents can probably attest to it. It was huge advantage for me.”
And he should be a huge advantage for any team that drafts him.
They get a football player and patriot wrapped in one.