The Navy released Eric Kettani from his active-duty contract to pursue a career in the National Football League. (Michael Dwyer / The Associated Press)
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A lieutenant junior grade was released early from his active-duty contract to pursue his dream of playing in the National Football League, the Navy said Tuesday, in a move that reverses a prior denial.
Lieutenant j.g. Eric Kettani, a former Naval Academy running back who graduated in 2009, made the practice squad of the New England Patriots last summer and had moved up to Foxboro, Mass., only to learn that his waiver from his active-duty obligation was denied by Juan Garcia, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. Kettani returned to his old ship, the frigate Klakring.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus approved Kettani's appeal, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence said Tuesday. As part of the agreement, Kettani will have to repay the Navy roughly $60,000 for the cost of his academy education and training and will serve in the Navy reserve for up to seven years.
"It's a completely different world for me," Kettani said in short interview Tuesday night, 30 minutes after he got official word of the approval. He had been slated to report as navigator on amphibious transport dock San Diego, but now he plans to get back to Foxboro and the Patriots as soon as possible.
"I'll be playing for one of the best teams," Kettani said, pointing out the Patriots made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season.
"Right now, I'm on the active roster so my plan is to make the team," Kettani said, adding: "I'm just going to take things day by day and do my job with the Patriots and hopefully help out as best possible and help the Navy out."