True Patriot: Navy Orders NFL Player to Report for Duty

New England running back was feel-good story after making team

By Greg Wilson
|  Thursday, Oct 13, 2011  |  Updated 10:37 AM CDT
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Running back Eric Kettani played football at the Naval Academy before joining the New England Patriots. Now, the Navy is calling him back.

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A running back on the New England Patriots has been ordered to do his patriotic duty - and report immediately aboard a Navy ship.

Eric Kettani, who became a feel-good story after making the team's practice squad, and who is an alum of  the U.S. Naval Academy, was ordered to return to his Navy ship in Jacksonville, the Boston Herald reported. He said he hopes to get back to his career in the NFL, but knows he must follow orders.

“I love my country and I’m happy to serve it, but I’m also happy to be a New England Patriot,” Kettani told Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.

Players from the military academies must fulfill a five-year commitment after graduating. But ones who get drafted or signed by NFL teams are often granted leave to pursue their careers. Kettani had requested a leave from active duty that would allow him to stay with the Patriots, but he was informed by letter that his request was denied.

“As our nation is at war, it is important to ensure we maintain our commitment to the nation’s defense,” the letter from the Navy said. “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.”

Perhaps the most famous Navy grad to play in the NFL was Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach. The Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the tenth round of the 1964 draft, but he couldn't join the team until 1969, as a 27-year-old rookie. In his 10-year carrer, he led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls, including the team's championship in 1972.

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