STARS MUST WAIT FOR PRO CHANCES

Depart­ment of De­fense al­ters pro sports guide­lines.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala Nicki Jhab­vala: njhab­vala@den­ver­post.com or @Nick­iJhab­vala

The fall­out from the U.S. Depart­ment of De­fense’s de­ci­sion to re­scind a short-lived pol­icy that cre­ated an av­enue for grad­u­at­ing ath­letes from ser­vice acad­e­mies to forgo their re­quired ac­tive duty and turn pro im­me­di­ately was swift and ex­ten­sive.

No NFL prospects from the acad­e­mies were drafted, in­clud­ing the Air Force Academy’s all-time lead­ing re­ceiver Jalen Robi­nette, who was a late-round pro­jec­tion. None of the academy’s se­nior cadets were ex­tended NFL train­ing camp in­vites. And Grif­fin Jax, an Air Force base­ball player drafted in the third round by the Min­nesota Twins last year, faces a fu­ture of ac­tive duty in­stead of one on the mound.

A shred of hope re­mained for all, but it was a long­shot. Mem­bers of con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tions from Ohio and Colorado opened in­quiries into the D.O.D.’s de­ci­sion and the is­sue made it all the way to the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The House re­cently voted on an amend­ment to the Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act writ­ten by Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, a for­mer Syra­cuse foot­ball player and mem­ber of the U.S. Army JAG Corps, to try to over­turn the order of Sec­re­tary of De­fense Jim Mat­tis, which was signed af­ter the 2017 NFL draft.

But the amend­ment lost, 318-107, mean­ing the grad­u­ated cadets who were de­nied a pos­si­ble ready re­serve sta­tus will not be grand­fa­thered into the old pol­icy and will in­stead con­tinue their ac­tive duty.

Al­though the old D.O.D. pol­icy that was en­acted in 2016 never guar­an­teed ready re­serve sta­tus, it at least granted the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply for it and po­ten­tially pur­sue a pro­fes­sional sports ca­reer if ath­letes were ex­tended a pro con­tract.

Robi­nette landed rookie mini­camp in­vites from the Buf­falo Bills and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, while team­mates We­ston Steel­ham­mer worked out for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles and Ryan Wat­son tried out for the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

But it ended there.

Two days ago, Jax threw out his last pitch for the Cedar Rapids Ker­nels, the Twins’ Sin­gle-A af­fil­i­ate. Mon­day, he was to be­gin his ca­reer as a sec­ond lieu­tenant, serv­ing as an ac­qui­si­tions of­fi­cer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta­tion in Florida.

Robi­nette’s sta­tus was com­pli­cated fur­ther by his re­moval from the academy’s grad­u­a­tion line in May be­cause of a re­view of his qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“Cadet Robi­nette’s grad­u­a­tion and com­mis­sion­ing will be placed on hold while we fur­ther eval­u­ate,” Ray Bowden, a spokesman in the public af­fairs of­fice for the Academy, said in a state­ment to The Den­ver Post. “Due to pri­vacy-re­lated con­cerns, we are un­able to com­ment on the cir­cum­stances. We can say that the cir­cum­stances do not in­volve any al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing and are un­re­lated to cadet Robi­nette’s pro­fes­sional foot­ball pur­suits.”

Robi­nette’s sta­tus is still un­der re­view.

Loren Orr, Getty Im­ages file

Air Force wide re­ceiver Jalen Robi­nette catches a long pass for a touch­down against Boise State two sea­sons ago. Robi­nette, the academy’s all-time lead­ing re­ceiver, will be on ac­tive duty be­fore get­ting any op­por­tu­nity to en­ter the NFL.

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