The East-West Shrine Game has a long history of featuring military academy players, trying to feature a player from both the Army and Naval academies each season. The 2013 iteration of the annual college football all-star game will feature Army quarterback Trent Steelman, but he'll be showcasing his athleticism at a new position, making it the 12th consecutive East-West game to feature an Army player.
Steelman finished his senior season at quarterback with the Army Black Knights as one of the school's most decorated players ever. He finished the season with 1,248 rushing yards, tying the school record for rushing touchdowns with 17. Steelman graduates as Army's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 45, and the school's all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 3,320 yards in his four-year career in the Black Knight's triple-option offense.
That athleticism running the football and making plays in space for Steelman has him featured at a new position in the East-West Shrine game, as he's listed on the roster as a wide receiver and will play some running back, but not quarterback.
Steelman has the athleticism to potentially make the switch to wide receiver/running back, so it will be interesting to watch how he transitions in the practices during the week. Even if Steelman has a fantastic showing and impresses NFL scouts during the week of practices, it's always tough to have an NFL team focus their attention on a military academy player because of their service commitment.
Thanks to a Department of Defense directive that passed in 2008, however, a player like Steelman has the chance to apply for an early release out of active duty to play a professional sport.
The directive states:
Exceptional personnel with unique talents and abilities may be released ... when there is a strong expectation they will provide the Department with significant favorable media exposure likely to enhance national recruiting or public affairs efforts,
Unlike past military academy players such as Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who had to serve his full four-year commitment before starting his career with the Dallas Cowboys, players such as Steelman could only have to wait a little while before playing in the NFL. Most players serving the military academies, however, know what their main duty is.
"I would love it," Steelman told USA Today about the prospects of playing in the NFL. "But at the same time, I know what my calling is. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."