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May 24, 2013Trent Steelman is going to get his shot at the NFL. It just may not be with the Baltimore Ravens, and it won't be during OTA's this month.
Steelman, a standout four-year starter at Quarterback for the Army Black Knights, earned a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens following his performance at mini-camp earlier this month. However, the challenge of getting that contract approved by the U.S. Army and Ravens is ongoing, and because of that the Ravens had to fill the roster with another player.
The contractual challenge with the Department of the Army is understandable. This is new territory for the Army. Over the past five years, three former Army players (Caleb Campbell, Collin Mooney, and Josh McNary) have been given free-agent contracts by NFL teams.
However, none of these players have had contracts in place prior to the completion of their two-year active service commitment (and subsequent release from active duty). Steelman's military training schedule and proximity to Baltimore would afford him the opportunity to play as a part of the Ravens during leave.
Although I was really excited to be a part of the Ravens organization, I am also excited about starting my active duty service, continuing to work hard and train, and am confident that I will have another opportunity to play soon.
Following the challenges the Army faced with Caleb Campbell being drafted in 2008, the subsequent decision by the Department of Defense to not honor the Army's interpretation of the Alternative Service Policy, and the current contract language under the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the ability for a West Point graduate to take part in NFL team activities under a free agent contract is uncharted territory for the Army. As such, contractual language and agreements will take some time to hammer out.
While the timing challenge is unfortunate for Steelman today, the positive is that the Army is working with him to attempt to clear the path for his participation in NFL activities. "West Point has forwarded the contract to the Chief Judge Advocate for review and approval," Army's former signal caller explained. "Some may look at this as a setback, but I don't see it that way. Although I was really excited to be a part of the Ravens organization, I am also excited about starting my active duty service, continuing to work hard and train, and am confident that I will have another opportunity to play soon."
Army Football players taking part on NFL teams is not unprecedented. In 1996, both quarterback Ronnie McAda (drafted last in the 1997 NFL Draft) and tight end Ron Leshinski were given the opportunity to participate in NFL camp activities and play in NFL Europe while on active duty. Leshinski served his two years and then played for the Philadelphia Eagles before suffering a knee injury that knocked him out of the game. It's not inconceivable that Steelman participate in the same manner.
None of what is being done is lost on Steelman. "I am very appreciative of having my situation be considered by the Army. I am proud of my military commitment, and look forward to being able to serve the Army and be an ambassador to the Army and West Point as an NFL athlete."
With two months to go before training camps kick off, there will be plenty of opportunity for the contractual challenges to be ironed out and for the Ravens or another team to sign Steelman and bring him to camp. "Of course, I would love to be a Raven, but I have had calls from other teams and I am confident an opportunity will be there when the time is right. In the interim, I am just going to focus on my military duty and concentrate on getting bigger, faster, and stronger so I am at my best when the call comes."
Steelman, the tough as nails, unrelenting field general for the Black Knights over the past 4 years, was also Army's "Black Lion" Award recipient his senior year. The award is intended to go to the player "who best exemplifies the character of Don Holleder: leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self sacrifice, and above all an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself."
Steelman continues to exemplify that character today, and will no doubt carry it into the NFL in short order.
** To chat with other Army fans about this article and more, please visit The 12th Knight message board.**