Army players await NFL draft

Army players await NFL draft

It's a big weekend for Army football and the Black Knights aren't even taking the field for a game. Still, history can be made by strong safety Caleb Campbell. Campbell could become the first Army player selected in the NFL draft since the Green Bay Packers took quarterback Ronnie McAda in the seventh round of the 1997 draft.

Three other Army players, fullback Mike Viti, wide receiver/punt returner Jeremy Trimble and punter Owen Tolson could sign NFL free agent contracts after the draft.

"The faculty, my tactical company, my classmates, everyone has been so supportive," Campbell said. "It's been exciting. I'm thankful the Army has given me the opportunity to pursue this career. I don't know where I'm going to go (in the draft), but I'm just excited to go to a camp." McAda, who helped Army to its last winning season in 1996, also played for Denver. But he never played in a regular-season game. Things were different back then.

McAda hung around the Packers' training camp until last cuts in 1997. Then it happened. He didn't get release, but McAda had to leave the Packers to serve two years active duty in the Army.

Making an NFL roster will be a little easier for this year's group of hopefuls because of a new policy introduced by the Department of Army in 2005. It's called the alternative service option program.

Cadets accepted into the program "will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations. If they remain in professional sports following those two years, they will be provided the option of buying out the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years of reserve time."

Navy and Air Force don't have that type of program in place. Both academies require two years of active service after graduation before allowing the option of switching the final three years of active time for six years in the reservesCampbell's been projected anywhere from a fourth round pick to a free agent sign. He's talked to more than a dozen teams. At 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, he's on the board as a safety, but could be moved to linebacker in the NFL. Maybe Campbell can another version of Cato June. June, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starred, played safety at the University of Michigan. The Indianapolis Colts took him in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL draft and moved June to linebacker. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and led the Colts in tackles in their Super Bowl win over the Bears. "Teams that run the Tampa Bay defense (Cover 2) have talked to me about playing outside linebacker," Campbell said. "That just gives me more options."

While Campbell is the headliner of Army's NFL hopefuls, Viti, Tolson and Trimble have all talked to NFL teams about possible free agent deals. Tolson joined Campbell at the NFL combine in February.

"Everyone has been coming up to me (on campus) and asking which team are you going to," Tolson said. "They are taking a lot of pride in our success. I just tell them 'Guys, I'm just one of ya'll. I just want to make it and represent all of you.'"

Extra points: Army wanted no part of Ohio State, but Navy does. The Midshipmen and Buckeyes announced that they will play in 2009 and 2014. That hole was left on Ohio State's schedule after Army backed out.

Navy will visit Columbus on Sept. 5, 2009 and the Buckeyes will return the favor in five years, playing Navy somewhere near its campus in Annapolis, Md., on Aug. 30, 2014.

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