When the New England Patriots selected long snapper Joe Cardona in the 5th round of the NFL Draft, a lot of people scratched their heads. A fifth round pick on a specialist is excessive to some teams.
And when that long snapper is coming out of Navy, with a five year service requirement for graduates, it seemed like a potential draft pick throwaway. The standard for similar athletes is two years of military service, with an additional six years of work in the reserves, although it's an ad hoc process and no waiver of required time is guaranteed.
Apparently, times are a changin' as the Navy has agreed to allow Cardona to delay his deployment until after the 2015 season.
This piece of information is tucked away in article about a Navy soccer player, Joseph Greenspan, that was drafted in the first round of the MLS draft. Greenspan will work in a recruiting office for his first season in the league and attribute this career possibility to Bill Belichick's draft strategy.
"I think [Cardona]’s situation definitely helped, what with football being a little more high-profile and it being the Patriots and all," Greenspan said. "Once they decided to let [Cardona] play and get that publicity it made it easier for them to decide to let me play.
"I know Joe pretty well and I’m happy he’s gotten a chance to play and it’s pretty cool to have two guys from the same class playing professional sports this fall—one in the NFL and now in MLS. It shows the kind of people and athletes that the Naval Academy gets."
The status for Cardona isn't publicly verified by the team and the timeline for official announcement isn't clear, but the wheels are in motion to allow for Cardona to spend his rookie season with the Patriots.
As the United States Department of Defense paid $5.4 million to fourteen NFL teams to honor veterans as a form of recruiting and advertisement, Cardona's work on the field and New England's prime time appearances will likely yield similar returns for the Navy. It might be more productive for the Navy to feature these athletes in settings that best take advantage of their unique skills.
While his long-term future after the 2015 season is still uncertain, getting involved in the Patriots system is a good start.