Bill may drop the NFL draft for Army star LB Carter

A sudden potential barrier emerged that could prevent Army star quarterback Andre Carter II and other talented athletes in the service academy from playing professional sports directly outside of school.

The Military Times has reported that potential policy changes for athletes in the academy emerged as part of a bill passed through Congress. Since 2019, athletes in military academies can apply for a waiver to defer their active service requirements and immediately pursue professional sports opportunities.

That rule, pushed out by former President Donald Trump in 2019, looks set to be repealed. Tucked into Section 553 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed on Thursday and brought to President Joe Biden’s desk, is language that states “any agreement by a cadet or midshipman to play a professional sport is a breach of duty of service.” The bill covers the Army, Navy, and Air Force and states: “Cadets may not obtain employment, including as professional athletes, until after completing cadet service obligations.” That obligation, according to the Army, is five years on active duty and three years in individual ready reserve.

Changes are expected when the bill is signed, which could be as early as next week. Carter and other athletes currently in service academy will not receive an inheritance exemption, meaning they will lose the ability to quickly pursue professional sports opportunities.

Heading into this season, Carter’s potential NFL draft is one of the fun stories in college football. The Black Knights’ star is 22nd-ranked Mel Goalkeeper for the upcoming draft, a stunning development for a school that hasn’t had a first-round pick since 1947 and only two total players drafted since 1969.

Carter chose to stay in the Army his final two seasons out of loyalty, despite being a player whose talent can make a lot of money in the name, image, and likeness market. He’s 6-foot-7, 260 pounds and talented enough to play at any blue blood school. His family say transfers were never seriously considered, even after he led the nation in 2021 at 1.19 per game. (He finished ahead of Will Anderson Jr., an Alabama outfielder who was the only OLB-ranked ahead of him in the Goalkeepers draft rankings.)

After two years at the academy, all cadets entering their first year “firm” with the school, an agreement to serve upon graduation and pay back their tuition fees if they do not graduate. If Carter rescinds his affirmation, it would mean neither of them graduate after nearly four years of hard work and expensive bills to pay back.

Last Thursday, as Carter’s parents traveled from their Houston-area home to the Army-Navy game, they learned about the potential change on Twitter. They were wide-eyed when they read the Military Times report on the contents of the bill. Their son’s plans to enlist in the military, play professional football and then serve in the military could potentially be scrapped.

“This is very painful stuff,” Melissa Carter told ESPN. “You mentored your son to do the right thing because it was right. And it’s really disappointing that it wasn’t reciprocated. This has been his goal since childhood, to get into the NFL. Every step of the way, it has been on the right track, until we saw this article. That’s the disappointing part. It’s no surprise to see so many people move on, opt out, or change teams. When loyalty isn’t reciprocated, it hurts.”

Army coach Jeff Monken was not made aware of the potential rule change until after Saturday’s Army-Navy game.

“It was like pulling the rug out from under it,” Monken told ESPN. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair to him. He’s loyal to this team and this institution. He could have left and he didn’t. He still wants to serve. It’s not that he doesn’t want to serve. He wants to go after the NFL and play, then serve.

“I am 100 percent against it.”

Melissa Carter said it was her “understanding” that her son would have to serve two years in the military if the bill passes as written. (Army officials explained that after two years of active service, a graduate can apply for alternative service options.) Melissa Carter said passage of the bill would likely force her son to choose between two goals: graduate from the United States Military Academy or play professional soccer. The family has no animosity towards the Army or the trainers, but rather the political will that has left their son at a crossroads.

The family scrambles to see what can be done. If Carter enters No. 22, he’ll get a contract of about $15 million. While he was projected in the first round in several mock drafts, some scouts believed he preferred the second round. Despite the potential payout, the family said there was a lack of fairness that the rules suddenly changed days before their son was to play his final regular season game. If the rules were different, the path might have been different. The Carter family often asked about the rules during their son’s last two years.

Monken wondered if, at a minimum, the policy could be changed to allow those who entered the academy after the bill passed in 2019 to get an inheritance exemption under the rules they believed applied when they decided to go to the Academy. While he strongly advocates adhering to rules that allow deferral of military service, he hopes something can be done in the short term for Carter and those who enter the academy thinking they can pursue professional sports and deferring their military service.

“It doesn’t matter who sets the policy,” Monken said. “We must do what is right.”

Former Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, who was part of initiating the policy allowing delays in 2019, said he was unsure of the mechanics of how this passage would fit into the current bill that has passed.

McCarthy didn’t find out about the potential change until attending the Army-Navy game on Saturday.

McCarthy said he was disappointed that there was evidence the suspension worked, and that NFL executives were finally comfortable drafting players out of the academy. McCarthy sheds light on decades of philosophical debate in the military about whether or not to allow athletes to delay service to play. He said it through famous Navy graduates like David Robinson in the NBA and Napoleon McCallum in the NFL.

“You could argue the merits of philosophy,” McCarthy told ESPN. “This is the kind of thing where we have three plus years of precedent. There are five former Army players whose service was suspended. Four made it in the NFL and one, who was cut (1st Lieutenant Connor Slomka), who is today in the Ranger 75 regiment. Currently, the policy works.

“Obviously these young men are going into this season thinking they’ll be given the chance, if they can afford it, to compete for the NFL. Because of this change, I think it’s only appropriate that people who came into the Army since policy started in 2019, should be drafted into existing policies.”

There are four Army graduates in the NFL today – Cole Christiansen (Chiefs), Brett Toth (Eagles), Elijah Riley (Steelers) and Jon Rhattigan (Seahawks). West Point is an important part of the story they tell. Monken doesn’t understand why Army graduates who train for the Olympics through the World Class Athlete program are celebrated and those who choose to delay professional soccer service are blocked.

“We are so proud of these people and how they represent West Point,” said Monken.

Andre Carter II declined to speak to ESPN for this story. But his family made his emotions clear.

“He was very upset,” said his father, Andre. “He was really, visually annoyed with the uncertainty. He wasn’t pleased. When you’re in the military, everything is spot on. To have something at the eleventh hour thrown in there when you’re so used to having a regiment. He’s clueless about the whole thing.” .”

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