New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sees the value in drafting Joe Cardona in spite of his military service obligation.
(C+P) — It has been a massive few weeks for Naval Academy sports. A week ago Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his MLB debut pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots selected Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Cardona is the first Navy football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since tight end Kevin Hickman was chosen in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Mike Wahle (OG) was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft. Service Academy players drafted in the NFL is extremely rare. In 1999 Air Force defensive end, Bryce Fisher, was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round. Army defensive back Caleb Campbell went to the Lions in the 2008 NFL Draft seventh round snapping a 17-year drought for Army football players selected in the NFL Draft.
It does not happen very often.
Cardona, a surface warfare officer, will serve at Norfolk, Va. after graduation, and there are no plans that would allow him to play in the NFL before he completes his active-duty service.
Bob Kuberski, drafted in 1993, served two years before starting his NFL career in 1995. In 2011, USNA graduate, Eric Kettani, Worked out with New England before returning to active-duty and eventually landing on the Redskins practice squad the following year.
Cardona started at long snapper in each of his four years in Annapolis, only the second freshman to start at the position. His play as a senior earned him the only invitation offered to a long snapper by the NFL to this year’s draft combine, where his performance earned him high marks — almost high enough to guarantee selection but given his position and his service commitment, questions lingered.
Kuberski served two years before beginning his NFL career in 1995. Eric Kettani, a 2009 USNA graduate, worked out with the Patriots in 2011 before going back to his active-duty station and eventually landing on the Washington Redskins practice squad the next year.
The New England Patriots were just one of two teams where Cardona trained prior to the 2015 draft, along with the Philadelphia Eagles. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s father, Steve, was a highly regarded assistant coach with the Midshipmen for more than 30 years.
There is also Belichick’s love for special team players and willingness to go against the normal in the draft. There are not many teams that are willing to pick a long snapper in the fifth round, but Bill Belichick doesn’t follow the norm.
Cardona started at long snapper all four years at Annapolis, only the second freshman to start at the position. Cardona was the only long snapper invitation to the 2015 NFL draft combine, where his performance earned high marks.
Cardona graduates as a Marine May 22 and then will head to The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia.
Joe Cardona is a prime example of commitment and dedication to his country while also having the opportunity to play professional football. He is an example that a young person can get a top-quality education, serve their country and play in the NFL.