US Navy Frees Eric Kettani To Play For The Patriots

LTJG Eric Kettani can go back to being FB Eric Kettani. Yesterday, after three years of service on the USS Klakring, Kettani received his release from active duty and will join the New England Patriots for all offseason activities.

It's been a long road for Kettani, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2008. Three years earlier, the U.S. Military Academy passed a rule allowing for Army grads to forego part of their five-year commitment and play in the NFL. The rule, called the Alternative Service Option, stated that cadets "will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations."

There was no such provision for Navy grads, something that led to some friendly rivalry between the branches—and debate over good PR vs. service commitments. So Kettani reported to his ship in 2009, and went on the Patriots' reserve list.

Last year, Kettani was placed on Selected Reserve, and applied for leave to join the Patriots training camp. His request was denied by the Navy:

"As our nation is at war, it is important to ensure we maintain our commitment to the nation's defense. As such, a release from active duty would be inconsistent with that effort.

I appreciate your Patriotism and service to our nation and encourage you to pursue your goal to play professional football after completion of your service in the Navy."

Yesterday, Kettani finally got his release. It took three months of negotiations led by Donnie Horner, former Army quarterback and current education commissioner in Jacksonville, where Kettani's ship was stationed. Kettani will be free to compete for a job this summer, and still has practice squad eligibility. From the Navy to New England—let's see how the hero likes being a villain.