Past and present veterans in the NFL


NFL announcers’ barrage of military metaphors got me thinking: Who in the NFL right now has endured overseas duty during wartime, and who else has served in any capacity?

Dare I say it, here’s inside-the-trenches look at veterans who have played in the NFL, according to the league.

These statistics — probably incomplete — tell us the Air Force Academy has graduated the most NFL players since the early 1990s (5), followed by the Naval Academy (3) and then West Point (2).

Also, check out this web page, focusing on the NFL and its connection to veterans who have served, on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website when you get a shot.

Overseas duty endurers
• Ahmard Hall, Tennessee Titans fullback, served as a Marine in Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2002). He has started three games this season.

• Rulon Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end, served as a Marine in Iraq around 2003. He is assigned to the practice squad.

• Ben Kotwica, New York Jets special teams assistant coach, flew Apache helicopters for the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

• Rod Marinelli, Chicago Bears assistant head coach and defense line coach, served a one-year tour in Vietnam.

• Mike Priefer, Denver Broncos special teams coordinator, flew Navy helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

• Ralph Wilson Jr., 92, long-time owner of the Buffalo Bills and one of the founders of the American Football League, served in the Navy during World War II.

Uniform wearers
• Detroit Lions safety C.C. Brown is a guardsman. He has 33 tackles.

• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Chad Hall, a former Air Force officer, has three receptions this year.

• Detroit Lions linebacker Caleb Campbell, an Army reserve officer, was signed for one game this season.

• Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker coach Kevin Greene served 16 years in the reserves while playing and coaching in the NFL.

• New York Giants quarterback coach Mike Sullivan served as an Army officer in the early 1990s and graduated from Ranger and Airborne schools.

Here are some other veterans who have played in the league in recent years.

Name Service Professional team(s) College
Mike Anderson Marine Corps, about 1996 Denver Broncos, 2000-03 University of Utah
    Baltimore Ravens, 2006-07  
Vaughn Baker Army, 1988-90 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-97 University of Cincinnati
    Green Bay Packers, 1998-99  
    Cincinnati Bengals, 2000-02  
C.C. Brown National Guard, service unknown Detroit Lions, 2010 University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Caleb Campbell Army, 2008-present Detroit Lions, 2010 Army
Kyle Eckel Navy, 2001-06 New England Patriots, 2007 Navy
    Philadelphia Eagles, 2008  
    New Orleans Saints, 2009  
Chuck Evans Marine Corps, date unknown Minnesota Vikings, 1993-98 Clark University (Atlanta)
    Baltimore Ravens, 1999-2000  
Bryce Fisher Air Force, 1995-01 Buffalo Bills, 2001 Air Force
  Air National Guard, 2001-present St. Louis Rams, 2002-04  
    Seattle Seahawks, 2005-06  
    Tennessee Titans, 2007  
Chris Gizzi Air Force, 1994-99 Green Bay Packers, 2000-01 Air Force
Kevin Greene Air Force, about 1998 Las Angeles Rams, 1985-92 Auburn University
    Pittsburgh Steelers, 1993-95  
    Carolina Panthers, 1996  
    San Francisco 49ers, 1997  
    Carolina Panthers, 1998-99  
Ahmard Hall Marine Cops, 1999-2002 Tennessee Titans, 2006-10 University of Texas
  Air National Guard, date unknown    
Chad Hall Air Force, 2008 to about 2009 Philadelphia Eagles, 2010 Air Force
Chad Hennings Air Force, 1988-92 Dallas Cowboys, 1992-00 Air Force
Clyde Johnson Marine Corps, 1988-onwards Kansas City Chiefs, 1997 Kansas State University
J.J. Johnson Navy, about 1995 Miami Dolphins, 1999-01 Mississippi State
Ron Leshinski Army, about 1999 Philadelphia Eagles, 1999 Army
Terry Long Army, date unknown Pittsburgh Steelers, 1984-91 East Carolina
Napoleon McCallum Navy, 1981-89 Las Angeles Raiders, 1986, 1990-94 Navy
Phil McConkey Navy, 1975-84 New York Giants, 1984-85 Navy
    Green Bay Packers, 1986  
    New York Giants, 1986-88  
    Phoenix Cardinals, 1989  
    San Diego Chargers, 1989  
Robert McCune Navy National Guard, 1997-2000 Washington Redskins, 2005 University of Louisville
    Baltimore Ravens, 2007-08  
John Milem Marine Corps, 1997-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2000-01 Lenoir-Rhyne
    Carolina Panthers, 2001  
Derrick Rodgers Air Force, date unknown Miami Dolphins, 1997-02 Arizona State
    New Orleans Saints, 2003-04  
Steve Russ Air Force, 1991-97 Denver Broncos, 1997, 1999-00 Air Force
Mark Stock Army, date unknown Pittsburgh Steelers, 1989 Virginia Military Institute
    Washington Redskins, 1993  
    Indianapolis Colts, 1996  
Pat Tillman Army, 2002-04 Arizona Cardinals, 1998-2001 Arizona State
Chris Wing Air Force, date unknown New York Jets, 1997 Boise State
Ray Yakavonis Army, date unknown Minnesota Vikings, 1981-83 East Stroudsburg
    Kansas City Chiefs, 1983  

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