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Service Academy athletes in the pros: An NFL and minor league baseball update

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Let’s take a look at how many of the recent service academy professional athletes are doing.

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As college football is just kicking off, and the NFL season is about to begin, we’d like to give an update as to where the various professional football players from the service academies are and how they are doing. We also take a look at what some of the recent baseball draftees are up to.

This list is not comprehensive, but rather a solid overview of some of the more prominent names.

Keenan Reynolds (Navy, 2016)

Keenan Reynolds, who spent the past year and a half with the Seattle Seahawks as a wide receiver, was cut this past weekend. Reynolds spent the majority of the 2018 NFL season on the Seahawks practice squad before being activated in the last weeks of the season. This preseason, Reynolds recorded one catch for 16 yards and rushed once for seven yards. He also saw a decent amount of time on special teams as well during preseason play. Since Reynolds has over two years of NFL experience, he will be less attractive to teams because there are limits on the number of veteran practice players a team can have on the team. We have to keep an eye on where he lands.

Alejandro Villanueva (Army, 2010)

Prior to his time in the NFL, Alejandro Villanueva served as an infantry officer in the Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During his serves, he earned a Bronze Star with a Valor Device and one oak leaf cluster. However, Villanueva is in the middle of having one of the most successful NFL careers by a service academy graduate in recent history. Villanueva enters his sixth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is a two-time pro-bowler.

Austin Cutting (Air Force, 2019)

Austin Cutting is the most recent service academy athlete to go directly from commissioning to his professional team. Cutting was selected as the 250th overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL Draft, Indeed, he made the 53-man roster and will be starting as the Vikings’ long snapper this coming Sunday.

Joe Cardona (Navy, 2015)

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Speaking of long snappers, Joe Cardona remains with the New England Patriots for his fifth year with the team. This past May, Cardona was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy on the same day he received his second Super Bowl ring. The 2015 Naval Academy graduate is one of the top long snappers in the NFL and already has two Super Bowl rings.

Garrett Griffin (Air Force, 2016)

The 2016 Air Force graduate has had an emotional ride during his time in the NFL. After spending the vast majority of his two seasons on the Saints’ practice squad, Garret Griffin was promoted to 53-man roster late in 2017. He then was waived and re-signed by New Orleans to play on the practice squad once again. And, once again, he was moved up to the active roster in January of 2019. He made the most of his time on the active roster and caught a touchdown in last year’s NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. Had it not been for a blown pass interference call by the referees, Griffin would have found himself playing in a Super Bowl.

Griffin was injured in the Saints’ preseason game against the New York Jets and has been placed on injured reserve.

Ben Garland (Air Force, 2010)

Ben Garland has had one of the more unique routes through the NFL. At Air Force, Garland was a dominant defensive end. He started his NFL career playing the same position; however, he is now playing as an offensive lineman. Currently, Garland is one of the primary backup interior lineman on the San Fransisco 49ers.

Brett Toth (Army, 2018)

Brett Toth is the most recent player to receive a waiver from active duty military service to pursue a chance at playing in the NFL. While working with the University of Temple’s ROTC program, Toth gained the attention from the Philadelphia Eagles. Once he received a waiver from the Army, he began official practices with the Eagles. Toth was unable to make the 53-man roster with Philadelphia, but was quickly claimed by the Arizona Cardinals. For now, he is both serving at Fort Huachuca Army Base and playing on the Cardinals.

Army vs. Navy Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Griffin Jax (Air Force)

The former Falcon has had a tremendous year in the Twins minor league organization, dominating at AA Pensacola before being moved up to AAA Rochester in early August. He got three starts in for the Red Wings before being sent back down to AA to finish out the year. He currently carries a 2.90 ERA over 23 starts this year.

Noah Song and Nic Ready (Navy and Air Force, 2019)

Noah Song, from Navy, and Nic Ready, from Air Force, have been playing in the New York-Penn League since commissioning from their respective academies. Interestingly enough, the two are facing each other in the semifinals, which started last night. In Game 1, Nic Ready hit a home run to help his team, the Batavia Muckdogs, take game one against Noah Song’s Lowell Spinners. Ready was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 23rd round while Song was drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox. Both have had really good seasons in the Penn League. Song has a 1.35 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched. Ready set a Penn League record with 20 doubles during the single A short season this year.