Washington Redskins fullback and U.S. Navy Lt. Eric Kettani has seen his dream to become an NFL player deferred and then denied because of the commitment he made to his country. But he's finally getting his best chance to make an NFL roster.
Signed by the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009, the U.S. Naval Academy graduate served two years in active service before joining the team's practice squad. He then was told by the military that he had to return to service.
"It's tough," Kettani told Andrea Kremer for a feature on NFL Network. "You work so hard for something, and it's taken away. But that's what I signed up for, so I can't complain."
After serving another year, Kettani and the Navy worked out an agreement. The new lieutenant would serve in public affairs for seven years, doing recruiting work, and he would be able to pursue his NFL dream. That seemed like a great compromise, but the decision wasn't met with unanimous approval.
"I received some hate mail. It said go back to the military and what you signed up for," Kettani said. "They have every right to say that."
The hate mail is disappointing but a minor obstacle in the grand scheme of things. The Patriots released Kettani last year, but the Redskins picked him up and put him on the practice squad. Coach Mike Shanahan, who attended Kettani's recent Navy promotion ceremony, said Kettani's chances of making the team's 53-man roster are "good."
Four years after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Kettani continues to serve his country and might be playing on Sundays this fall. On this Independence Day, we salute him and all the other servicemen who sacrifice so much.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.