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West Point Grad Gets Drafted to Football Field

Soon to be West Point graduate Caleb Campbell (#13) will start his active duty as a member of the Detroit Lions professional football team. If he hadn't been drafted, he would be headed to Iraq or Kuwait as a platoon leader in charge of 32 soldiers.

Campbell's first dream was to serve his country, as he turned down offers to play football at other colleges as a high school senior. He didn't have hopes of going pro, as when he began his career at West Point the military had not yet implemented its "alternative service option," which allows graduates to play professional sports.

The Army hopes that Campbell will be a successful high profile recruiting tool. During the off season, he will work in a Detroit Army recruiting office.

Critics of the policy feel it betrays the American people who expect West Point men and women to serve as military leaders in exchange for their education, not play professional sports. In addition, it may undermine camaraderie among West Point alumni and the armed forces in general. Even Campbell admitted that his classmates didn't understand his decision at first.

Do you think Campbell can serve his country just as well on the gridiron or is he backing out on his commitment? Will a NFL player help the Army successfully recruit more Americans to serve in the military or is a better West Point football team all the Army has in mind with the "alternative service option"?


Join The Conversation
stephley stephley 9 years
I knew they didn't do foxholes - figured it had to do with the ships but couldn't think which parts would be too small, forgot about the planes.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Exactly UnDave. The military's armored personnel carriers, tanks, ships, submarines, bulkheads, planes, even the sleeping racks, etc. were made to fit a "standard" size. So they have weight/height restrictions in place for this reason. Hubby is 6'2" and he was pushing it with his height (he was in nuclear submarines), he also weighed much less during his time in the military because of the weight limit for his height. The above mentioned military items are made for optimal combat, it's not a luxury cruiseliner where they can supersize everything ;-) By the way, Navy doesn't fight from foxholes.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
They have height restrictions so that the person can fit in a fighter plane, or get through the bulkheads of a ship easily. The government could expand those bulkheads, but that would require a retrofit of all ships in the navy, which some would consider a waste of money.
stephley stephley 9 years
why the height limit? too tall for foxholes? why would the Navy have one?
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Sorry my correction he grew 5 inches in his 4 years at USNA.. he grew over the limit, they could not have brought him into the academy at his graduating height if that was his starting height (did that make sense? lol)
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
My hubby was at USNA at the same time Robinson was (hubby graduated 2 years after Robinson). After talking with hubby about this and hearing more facts I'm more inclined to see both sides of this situation. Still not sure I can pick a side though. On the one side the military academies train leaders for our country not just for our military. So if these cadets or midshipmen are still exemplifying what a leader is for our country - which they all should be doing whether they stay in the military or not - then I'm not as opposed to the "alternative service option". Not to mention the fact that some of the academies (such as USNA) have strict weight requirements that would make becoming a professional athlete less accessable to them (hence why their football team has sucked over the years - the weight requirements are so strict that they just can't grow them big enough to beat the bigger teams). Robinson grew over a foot taller during his stint in USNA which as we all know is a very rare thing. Not to mention the fact that at the end of their academy training not all of the graduates are "line ready" so the "alternative service option" could be a good thing. So, like I said I can now see both sides to this.
stephley stephley 9 years
No, Robinson served for two years, then played basketball - after graduation, this guy goes to the Detroit Lions. He's an Army recruiter in the off-season. It is different. It may not affect recruitment at the academies (at this point though, Navy and the Air Force aren't doing this) but it still creates an elite athlete status among the corps of cadets for a questionable benefit.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I'm sorry to be getting on here so late. This isn't the first time a pro athlete has been let out of their obligation to serve. David "the Admiral" Robinson was released from his Naval tour (aboard a submarine) because of his ability to play basketball. I don't think this will change the recruitment at any of the academies. The Navy basketball team didn't get any better in the years following David Robinson. Although this guy will also be a recruiter, since he isn't a high profile player, it won't make any difference in the end.
stephley stephley 9 years
"Francis J. Harvey, the secretary of the Army at the time, approved the policy that went further. Any member of the Army with an exceptional skill who could provide recruiting and public affairs benefits to the Army could be assigned to the nearest recruiting unit for their two-year active-duty period. Those approved can participate in their professional activity — in Campbell’s case, pro football — as long as it does not interfere with military duties. Then they can apply for early release from active duty." Everything I've read says active duty at least to begin with. It just doesn't seen like a good idea.
zeze zeze 9 years
All I care about is that maybe now the Lions might gain some toughness...I mean if this guy was willing to face war, imagine what he will do to the Bears!
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Sugar - Yea I know they are active duty while in and then as they go, but it just seems really suspect that he would be considered active duty while playing football.. I would think he would go to reserve status or be considered TAD or something! I agree with you though about how it should be uniform with all the academies... I never thought of that.
sugarbean sugarbean 9 years
I'm pretty sure all of the academy attendees (cadets, mids, what have you) are considered active duty -- I know this for a fact of the Naval Academy. Not so sure that they get active duty pay, however. and my limited understanding of the post-graduate commitment is that you are active duty for 5-years (if you do graduate school, that adds to the commitment) Naval Academy, at the beginning of your junior year, you sign what's known as the 2-for-7 (I think that's the right numbers...) basically in exchange for the two years you've had, you commit to service for the next seven years (2 of which include your junior and senior year + the five years after) -- the understanding when you sign doesn't generally include a career in professional sports. There have been a few at USNA who have tried to get around it and delay the commitment, but they haven't been able. I remember my brother mentioning a guy named Kyle and something about the Miami Dolphins -- even the teams have been involved in the negotiations/litigation -- to no avail. Part of the issue is that the policy should be uniform at all of the military academies -- in terms of football, they're creating a disadvantage for the other military schools by offering a safe harbor for football talent -- if they go to westpoint, they can play pro after they graduate. If they go to Navy (and maybe Air Force?) they don't get that chance.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
The article may say that but then its wrong. Unless he is being paid active duty, he's not active duty. There's a lot that goes into whether or not you're considered active duty, I find it very hard to beleive that the Army is considering him active duty.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"And what about all the cadets who are extremely talented in non-celebrity fields, is it fair to make them wait to until after their military service to launch their lucrative careers?" I thought this too.
stephley stephley 9 years
The article says he starts 'active duty' on the football field.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Oh and by the way I have to say NICE BUNNS #13. Mmm Mm M!
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Thank you Meu!
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
military disability i beleive is only while on active duty, so i'm assuming while he is in the NFL he will be on reserve staus... I don't think thats a concern.
meumitsuki meumitsuki 9 years
West Point does allow this to happen in other circumstances as well. For instance, if you find you are good at languages, you could transfer your commission to the CIA and be a spy, or if you are an Olympic contender, you can train for that. Don't know about chef though, unless you can make an edible MRE. :) I think if you don't go back to the Army in some capacity, you have to pay back the cost of schooling (about $300,00 I think they ask for). Their athletes are not allowed to slack off in the academic section and the service academies have high rates of Marshall, Gates, Rhodes, and East-West scholarship winners.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well what if my dream is to be a 5star chef and a great restaurant or an actor, or a recording artist and one of these opportunities falls at my feet while I'm at West Point? Would I get to opt out of active service and work part time at a recruiting station. Being offered a draft into the NFL is a universal patriarchal dream in the U.S. It is an elitist position in the boys club and so there for it gets a pass because everyone who has enough testosterone understands and it's o.k.
stephley stephley 9 years
Actually Syako, you raise an interesting point with the money - if he's hurt on the field while he's still tied to the Army, does he then get military disability based on his player salary? Who determines how his off-field time is divided between the military and Detroit? We've seen how much corruption student athlete programs have brought to universities, do we really need to add that layer on to the academies where we're supposed to be training elite men and women to lead our armed forces?
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
you know what. Looking at the facts of professional atheletes in the past from West Point, at least this guy graduated. Most of the other players dropped out of the school. I still don't understand why this is news. I can think of worse people in the NFL and the Army. This guy deserves where he is.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
I don't think I'm stereotyping at all. It may be true that lots of football players are academics, but it is also true that lots of academics are NOT football players. The point I'm making is that we always hear about how the military doesn't have enough people who are foreign language/affairs scholars who can work on the diplomatic end of things, and yet they are doing things like this. Seems counterintuitive.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
My ex-husband served in the Navy and went to World Team for wrestling (not like... wwe). He was paid to work out every day for 2 of his years of service. Admittedly, he was on the Navy team for the majority of the season, but it's the same concept.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I didn't realize the Army was a farm league for the NFL. If he doesn't do well this season does he get shipped to Iraq to improve his game?
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