Strong G.I. imprint on the field this football season

news  %tages Strong G.I. imprint on the field this football season

Faintly echoing a World War II era that saw dozens of college and professional stars putting on the pads subsequent their service obligations, this autumn’s football scene features a U.S. Army presence that’s spicing up the game like hot sauce on chow hall eggs.
Amongst the NFL aspirants getting the most chatter during preseason drills has been the St. Louis Rams’ Daniel Rodriguez, an NCO in Iraq and Afghanistan who was awarded a Purple Sensitivity and Bronze Star with Combat “V” for gallantry. He followed his distinguished battlefield service with achievement in the classroom and on the football field at Clemson University and, so far, the Rams like what they see.
Going into the final cut, Sept. 5, Rodriquez has fielded kick-offs, punts and passes during exhibition games and has earned a first-to-show, last-to-leave practice reputation with the Rams.
Joining him on the preseason national television stage has been Nate Boyer, another NCO who was the Texas Longhorns’ long snapper subsequent a deployment to Iraq. He was later commissioned in the Texas National Guard and, after a tour in Afghanistan and graduation ceremonies in Austin, got a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.
Although released by the reigning talks champs after the second preseason game (he took seven successful snaps in that contest), Boyer could get a shot from another team.
Both warrior-leaders have been on the motivational speaker circuit in addition to staying in top football shape and continuing to pursue that particular marvel. Daniel has also written a book, while Nate pursues filmmaking amongst other creative enterprises.
‘Long Gray Line’
At least four former West Point stars got looks this summer, including 2009 grad, Collin Mooney, a fullback who had been with the Tennessee Titans for two years in a largely practice and reserve role as he juggled military duties. The lumbering fullback with excellent hands has been enjoying a very solid preseason with the Atlanta Falcons, including a 60-yard bump-and-run hostile to the New York Jets.
Sergeant Maj. Nathan Espey, who was Military student Mooney’s Company Tactical NCO at West Point, said he’s the real deal.
“He was always a leader of reputation,” said Espey, who has known the young officer since Mooney reported to the U.S. Military Academy at 18. “He was, and is, strong and trustworthy. If there was anyone willing to go the extra mile to help someone, it was him.”
Now stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, Espey “never lost contact with Collin. Many of my cadets touch base with me from time to time for advice or just to let me know how they’re doing, and he was no exception.”
Espey got a call from Mooney in May telltale the more seasoned leader to “be sure to watch ESPN later today.” Mooney wouldn’t say why. “It’s a surprise,” he said.
And unique news it was, since Espey and his son, Stephen, are both huge Falcons fans.“Yeah, he got us,” Espey said.
USMA alumni Alejandro Villanueva (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Trent Steelman (Baltimore Ravens) switched positions in their quest to play at the next level.
While Trent was one of college football’s most prolific rushing quarterbacks during his four years as Army’s starter, he knew he didn’t have the size or the classic drop-back pedigree to be an NFL signal caller – so he has converted to wide receiver.
It appears that Villaneuva is adjusting from wide receiver to offensive tackle after a collegiate career that made fantastic use of his towering 6-foot-9-inch height.
An fascinating side note: Should Villaneuva go up from the Steelers’ practice squad (he signed last week), the Pittsburgh-New England game on Sept. 10 would feature an Army-Navy Game in microcosm. That’s because the Patriots’ 5th Round draft choice, long-snapper Joe Cardona, played at the Naval Academy.
Trent was cut by the Ravens last weekend, but according to his agent Washington attorney Scott Bergman, “three NFL teams have already shown interest.”
Another West Pointer, running back Raymond Maples, received an challenge to the Green Bay Packers recruit mini-camp but did not make the cut. Maples, whose school rushing production (nearly 2,900 yards) was exceeded only by legendary Heisman Trophy recipient Glenn Davis, ruins on Green Bay’s call-back list, even as he juggles active service requirements.
Bergman, who also represents Maples, reports that the Seahawks have inquired in this area the Philadelphia native.
College ball,too
But it’s not just in this area the pros in 2015 – certainly not if you’re a Maryland Terrapin in this area to enter your second season in the Huge Ten. That would be Tehuti Miles, a running back from Hammontown, New Jersey and an Afghanistan-seasoned Soldier who fought with the storied 10th Mountain Division.
He also fought to get into college.
Maryland would not acknowledge him lacking some college credits on his transcript, so he took classes at close Prince George’s Community College, then wore down the coaching personnel into giving him a walk-on opportunity.
Miles has twice received weekly team honors for his practice squad work on offense and unique teams, impersonating the opposition, but this should be the year he really sees collegiate playing time.
“He could realistically become a regular unique teams contributor,” says Maryland Sports Information staffer Ryan Connors. “Tehuti has the raw strength and athleticism to chase down and lay out kick and punt returners.”
At Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, recently retired Green Beret Bobby Brockley did the same thing as Tehuti Miles – in this area 20 years ago.
He served a two-year hitch in the Army and then played football at Worcester State College in Massachusetts before eventually going back into battle dress. Six combat tours and five Bronze Stars later, the now-retired chief warrant officer is the tight ends coach at Austin Peay.
The university’s Colby Wilson said that Brockley pursued his chosen post-service career with passion, visiting Tennessee State to observe practice between deployments and taking leave in order to join the coaching personnel of the Professional Indoor Football League’s Nashville Venom.
He wore his first whistle shortly after his own college graduation, taking over defensive line duties at tiny Sienna College in upstate New York, a school that was just bringing football back after a concise hiatus.
Like of the game
Is football in the Army’s DNA? Some would say so, given the pick-up “Sand Bowl” games that are being played in the Middle East at this very minute.
Consider the tradition of “Service Ball,” with line units — pads and all — duking it out for bragging rights on installations throughout the Army; the compelling tales of a Rocky Bleier or a Pat Tillman; or the gridiron colloquialisms that have for years dominated the Army vocabulary.
Yet, a sense of perspective ruins. Ken Kraetzer, who covers West Point football for WVOX AM out of New Rochelle, New York, recalls being in the locker room when “Ali” Villanueva refined the last game of his collegiate career.
“That was fun,” he said. “Now it’s time to go lead a group.”

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