Well, those aren't my words. And technically they're not really MLive's Bill Simonson's words either. But they're damn close when paraphrasing what he thinks about the story of Caleb Campbell.
Campbell is a West Point cadet who is quite skilled at the game of football. So skilled, in fact, that the Detroit Lions selected him in the seventh round, 218th overall of the NFL draft. He became the first Army cadet to be picked in the NFL since 1997.
But he still has to complete his service, right? Well, yes, and he will. But it won't be in the form of overseas deployment. The U.S. Armed Forces enacted a new policy stating that if an athlete is able to play professionally, he can complete his commitment with the army by serving as a recruiter during the offseason, instead of going overseas. To steal the AP's summation: "If his [NFL] career lasts more than two seasons, he will have the option of buying out the last three years of his active-duty commitment in exchange for six years in the reserves."
Getting drafted … to avoid military service.
He's the first person to be affected by this new policy. And even on the surface, it's a tricky subject. The primordial non-PC impression one initially gets is that, well, getting out of going to war is a good thing, and he beat the system. Then the mammalian brain kicks in. "All his friends and classmates have to go to Afghanistan and Iraq, but he doesn't, because he's good at football."
And because it's highly scientific and such, it's worth mentioning that just over half (52%) of about 3,000 respondents in a USA Today online poll said that Campbell should have to fulfill his service commitment, rather than play pro football. They're missing a big part of this. He won't be playing pro football. He'll be playing for the Lions. (Hey! Tip your waiters. Thank you, you've been great.)
All right, but after hearing Campbell speak on ESPN at the NFL Draft, it sounds like the Army is using Campbell not only as a recruiter in the offseason, but also during football season. Campbell also said he received letters from soldiers overseas who were uplifted by his story and his potential to play on the fictional battlefield on Sundays.
Back to MLive's Bill Simonson. Using Pat Tillman and Schulyer Williamson as contrasting examples of men who shunned sports for service, Simonson basically questioned Campbell's character, leadership skills, and honor after he chose to play football instead of going to war.
It looks like Simonson was using his instinctual reaction to formulate the column. Judging by his other sports pieces, he prides himself by taking sharp, unforgiving stances on sports topics and essentially going there and saying that! And Simonson might know what's best for the Army, but you know who else might know what's best for the Army? The Army. This was their policy, their call, and if they think they need an image touch-up using Campbell as a recruitment tool, then let's just go out on a limb and say that's probably what they should do. Furthermore, Campbell wants to lead soldiers on the field. He said so himself at the NFL Draft. And since the average NFL career is no more than about three years, there's no reason he can't do that once his football days are over.
And let's not forget, he'll be playing in Detroit. So either way he might be needing body armor.