NY Jets Safety May Have Scored a Touchdown for Military Athletes
For decades, student-athletes that were competing for the United States Military Academies were mandated to complete their active duty military service time before they could pursue their professional athletic careers. Some famous ones over the past few decades have been NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, former New York Giants wide receiver Phil McConkey, as well as Dallas Cowboys legendary quarterback, Roger Staubach. McConkey spent 5 years as a Navy helicopter pilot before he put the shoulder pads back on. Well, a new New York Jets player may have helped change that situation.
In 2016, then President Barack Obama signed a waiver to allow athletes attending the United States Military Academy to defer their military service until after their professional careers were over. According to ESPN.com policy allowed Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2016 draft after completing a four-year run with the Midshipmen.
Shortly after taking office in January of 2017, President Trump rescinded President Obama's waiver policy amongst other military changes that were being made. This is where New York Jets safety, Elijah Riley comes in.
According to an article in newyorkpost.com by Ethan Sears. Army was visiting the White House following their winning of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in Riley’s junior year. The Jets safety from Newfield High School on Long Island had the opportunity ask President Donald Trump a question. According the article, Riley asked the President whether athletes at service academies could have their mandatory service deferred to pursue professional sports opportunities.
Sears quoted Riley in the article, “Coach [Jeff] Monken, General [Darryl] Williams got involved in the conversation,” Riley said. “The two of them and President Trump started talking. I’m just standing there, jaw dropped, like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ ”
Well, it did happen. President Trump in June of 2019 issued the order, "saying that athletes graduating from the academies and Reserve Officers' Training Corps should be able to defer their military service obligations due to the "short window of time" they have to "take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible." The next year, Riley signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. His fellow United States Military Academy Student-Athletes owe him!