Just before Jalen Robinette’s NFL career was set to begin with his name likely to be called during Day 3 of the 2017 NFL draft, the Air Force Academy decided that athletes will not be allowed to defer military service and must serve two years of active duty before playing professionally, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.
Robinette is a 6’3, 220-pound receiver with big play ability, but the decision is devastating for his chances at ever playing in the NFL. And another wrench was thrown into his story Wednesday when he was removed from the list of Air Force Academy graduates.
“Cadet Robinette was removed from the graduation lineup after academy leadership became aware of information that called into question Cadet Robinette’s eligibility/qualification to graduate and commission,” Air Force Academy said in a statement, via Pro Football Talk. “Cadet Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be placed on hold while we further evaluate. 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 went undrafted in April and was not signed by a team, likely due to the policy change that was set to send him into two years of service.
Last year in May — following the selection of Keenan Reynolds by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2016 NFL draft — the Department of Defense updated a policy mandating two years of service for athletes to allow appointments in the reserve upon requests.
“A service member can request to be tendered an appointment in the reserve upon graduation and satisfy their commissioned service obligation in the Ready Reserve,” the new policy stated, via the Washington Post.
But the sudden reversal by the Air Force meant Robinette would not be able to serve his commitment as a reserve and wouldn’t be eligible to play in the NFL until 2019 — possibly crushing his chances at an NFL career. Not graduating Wednesday could be another strike at his hopes.
The last Air Force player to be drafted was defensive end Bryce Fisher, selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL draft. He returned to play for the Bills in 2001 before eventually developing into a starter for the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks.