Air Force Decided Athletes Cannot Defer Active Duty to Join Pro Teams

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Wide receiver Jalen Robinette of Air Force in action during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Air Force Academy announced Saturday that it will no longer provide waivers that would allow athletes to bypass the two-year requirement of active duty in order to play professional sports immediately.

Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweeted the following statement from Air Force regarding the matter:

Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette was a candidate to be selected on Day 3 of the 2017 NFL draft Saturday prior to the ruling.

When asked about his situation by Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today in February, Robinette declared his loyalty to the Air Force regardless of what decision was made: "I'm under the mindset that, when I graduate, I'm a lieutenant first. Whatever my assignment is, whatever I need to do, I'm going to go do it until I hear otherwise and I'm told that I can go play. At the end of the day, I'm a cadet first, and when I graduate, I'm going to be serving until I'm allowed to play."

There was hope for Robinette to enter the NFL immediately since a 2016 change in the Department of Defense policy allowed for active military personnel to serve in the reserves when signed to a professional sports league.

That was the case with Navy quarterback-turned-receiver Keenan Reynolds, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens last year.

Per Jhabvala, the Air Force decided to go against the policy change late in the draft process:

Robinette enjoyed a huge 2016 campaign for the Falcons, registering 35 receptions for 959 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 27.4 yards per catch.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Robinette as the No. 23 available receiver entering Day 3 and projected him to go undrafted in his Day 3 mock.