Military News from the NFL Draft

nfldraft2015 copy

nfldraft2015 copy

Army veteran and University of Texas player Nate Boyer and the Naval Academy’s Joe Cardona have both connected with pro football teams during the NFL Draft this past weekend in Chicago. Both players are long snap specialists but each has taken a very different path to his NFL opportunity. Both players have shots with recent Super Bowl winners: Boyer signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent and Cardona was selected by the New England Patriots in the fifth round.

boyer-story copy

We wrote about 34-year-old Green Beret Nate Boyer’s NFL dreams last month. Boyer joined the Longhorns football as walk-on and eventually beat out a scholarship player to become the team’s designated long snapper. If Boyer makes the Seahawks, he’ll be the oldest player on the team roster and the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL.

Boyer’s high school didn’t offer football, so he’d never played the game when he first tried out for the Texas team as a defensive back in 2012. The coaches told him he was too short (5’11”) and way too slow to compete, so Boyer decided he’d learn to be a long snapper and made  the squad after he returned from a tour of duty overseas.

Even if you fought as a Green Beret, the amount of tenacity it takes to decide to become a football player at the age of 30 is hard to grasp. Boyer thinks it’s just down to hard work: “I’m just proud that if you believe no matter what everybody tells you, no matter what the world tells you, no matter what your head tells you, if you just believe anything is possible and keep pushing, good things happen. I’m proud that other people are going to be able to look at this and pursue those dreams.”


Cardona has seen a far more traditional path to the NFL: four years of success in college and significant interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts led to his selection by the Patriots, a team known for its skill in using NFL draft picks. Coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t make a sentimental or symbolic pick: he wants Cardona to play.

Of course, Cardona (unlike Boyer) has yet to fulfill his service obligation. He owes the U.S. government five years and will graduate as a Marine this month before heading to The Basic School at Quantico. The Navy gave him special dispensation to play in the Senior Bowl and work out at the NFL scouting combine, so they may give him a clearance to play pro football.

Whatever happens, Cardona is grateful for the opportunities. “I don’t see any downside to it,” he said. “It’s a guaranteed job and a career that a lot of people really aspire to be. It’s a really honorable thing to be, to be a Naval officer. I look forward to whatever I do the next two years, whether it’s in the NFL or leading sailors and Marines. I’m excited for whatever comes next. Getting the opportunity to play football is a dream come true and I hope it comes to fruition.”

  • Dave Hudson

    The one that completed his military obligation should be given the opportunity immediately but the one that has not completed his obligation should have to complete that obligation first. He took a seat at the Naval Academy and had his college paid for. The tax payers should not pay his college bill so he can go play football. Several others like Roger Starbach, Joe Belino and few others have played pro football but completed their military obligation first and this guy is no better than those that came before him. Do your duty first then go play for the big bucks. The nation deserves what they have paid for out of the military colleges.

  • dbw86

    You got your education by agreeing to 5 years of active service in the Navy or Marine Corps. Man up and honor that and be a credit to your Academy, Service and Nation. The NFL does nothing for our nation!

  • GKB

    The Navy/Marine Corps would benefit significantly more from the positive exposure gained from him being on an NFL team (along with work in the reserves, recruiting, public relations, etc.), than the benefit of having one additional active duty 2ndLT in the USMC. Should he be cut, etc. then he can go back to active duty and resume his obligation. What is there to lose? This should be about the needs of the Department of the Navy, rather than some bitter requirement that he serve out his 5 years, no excuse Sir. Many more service academy graduates have been released from their service obligations due to medical reasons or reductions in force, than compared to those who were granted dispensation to play in professional sports. Just look at all the positive exposure David Robinson earned the Naval Academy. Heck, maybe they could even convince the Patriots to pay for all/part of the cost associated with his USNA education. Plenty of options here that make more sense than preventing him from making and playing for the team that drafted him, first time a USNA mid has had that happen since 1993.