October 07, 2011
There are patriots, and there are Patriots. New England running back Eric Kettani(notes) has proven that by leaving the football version of the term, he's become even more the real thing. An active military member for the Navy Reserve, Kettani realized another dream this year as he made New England's practice squad.
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That dream will be cut short for the time being — Kettani had requested leave for the last two weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. That request has been denied, and Kettani will report to his Navy ship, the USS Klakring, in Jacksonville on Friday. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com wrote that Kettani will fly out at 6 a.m. ET.
"I love my country and I'm happy to serve it, but I'm also happy to be a New England Patriot," Kettani said on Thursday. "I think some of them [his teammates] were shocked. Coach Belichick said he'd help me out in any way possible."
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The Navy's letter denying his request read, in part:
"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."
Kettani is appealing the decision, Reiss reports, in part because Indianapolis Colts practice squad linebacker Caleb Campbell(notes) (Army) and Philadelphia Eagles practice squad receiver Chad Hall(notes) (Air Force) have been able to continue their NFL careers.
The 6-foot-0, 230-pound Kettani attended the U.S. Naval Academy from 2005 through 2008, becoming the second player in school history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, and he was also the second player in school history to be invited to the Senior Bowl. Kettani's military obligations also prevented him from attending the 2009 scouting combine. He entered into a five-year commitment upon graduation, though there was a possibility that he'd be able to serve the last three years of that obligation in the reserves.
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