No one’s military service is a snap, but for Austin Cutting, it might be close.
The Air Force Academy graduate and seventh-round NFL draft choice has been cleared to play professional football while fulfilling his military commitment requirements, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Sunday.
And the Air Force is hoping his role will strengthen the service by more than just one newly minted officer.
Cutting will not only be starting his NFL career as a Minnesota Vikings long snapper, he’s going to be a recruiting officer for the USAF.
Scheduled to sign a contract Monday and begin training camp with the Vikings on Tuesday, Cutting’s official station will be the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but he will be assigned to Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reported.
He’ll be competing against the team’s current long snapper, Kevin McDermott, for a spot on the roster. If he doesn’t make the team but goes elsewhere in the NFL, he could be assigned to a new site, the Pioneer Press reported.
The Department of Defense policy had been that scholar-athletes who graduated from the service academies or on ROTC scholarships would have to fulfill their military commitments before pursuing a professional career, though waivers were available on a case-by-case basis, USA Today reported.
In June, President Donald Trump changed the policy to allow academy graduates to go into professional sports immediately.
Cutting’s agent, Darren Deloatche, told the Pioneer Press his client was grateful that he could wear both the Vikings uniform and the Air Force uniform simultaneously.
“It’s a weight off his shoulders at this stage,” Deloatche told the outlet. “He’s definitely excited about this opportunity to compete in the NFL right now. … But he wants to serve his country.”
Deloatche called the arrangement a win for all concerned — as well as for future service academy athletes.
“All the parties are benefiting by this,” Deloatche told the Pioneer Press.
“Austin is getting this opportunity right here, right now in the NFL,” he said. “The Vikings are benefiting because they’ve got a legitimate long-snapping battle in camp with two talented individuals. And all branches of the military are benefiting because student-athletes are going to see that, with the impending new regulation that is going to eventually be established by the Department of Defense, if they have the talent to play professionally, they will get that opportunity when they first come out of school.”
In announcing the policy change, Trump said it would help athletes maximize the short shelf-life of a pro career.
“As I recently stated, these student-athletes should be able to defer their military service obligations until they have completed their professional sports careers,” Trump wrote.
“Such cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible.”
Before Trump’s policy change, the Department of Defense has granted waivers to some athletes who graduated from the academy waivers, Military Times reported, including Keenan Reynolds, the 2016 Naval Academy graduate and receiver for the Seattle Seahawks.