Whether you agree with the policy reversal that will see Naval Academy players have to spend a minimum of two years on active duty before being eligible to play professional sports or not, we can all agree that the timing of this announcement was awful.
Jamir Tillman of Navy (along with other draft eligible prospects such as Jalen Robinette and Weston Steelhammer of Air Force) were not told until the first day of the NFL Draft that they wouldn’t be able to pursue their career choice as expected.
“Guys like me and Jalen Robinette have invested an awful lot of time, effort and energy into training and preparing for the NFL,” said Tillman to Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette. Tillman had pre-draft individual workouts with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. “Basically, all that was a waste. We were blindsided by this decision. As a future officer, I don’t question the orders of my superiors. I am fully prepared to go out and serve. I just have an issue with how this decision was executed.”
The policy reversal basically reinstates the old regulations that a player can sign an NFL contract and then be put on the Military Reserve List. This was the route taken by Navy fullback Eric Kettani when he was undrafted in 2009, signing with the New England Patriots before completing two years of active duty and spending time with the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
It should also be noted that this is not a retroactive policy and the likes of Keenan Reynolds and Chris Swain are not impacted by the decision.
It is the timing that is the issue here not the content. It would seem from the outside that the fairer way to do this would have been to allow this process to play out before enacting the order before the start of the next school year. The policy, though, is now set in stone and players once again know where they stand when joining one of the military academies.