5 Academy Grads Picked Up By NFL Teams Whittled Down to 2*
by Joe Harman
*UPDATE: Nolan Laufenberg was waived by the Broncos on Monday, August 23rd and is now a free agent. Only Jon Rhattigan remains active on an NFL roster among the five Service Academy grads from 2021.
While no Service Academy football players were drafted by NFL teams this past spring, five players were picked up as undrafted free agents in the days following the draft that ended on May 1, 2021
Jon Rhattigan was a breakout star linebacker for the Army Black Knights in the 2020 campaign, notching 78 tackles and earning the attention of a number of NFL teams in his only season as a starter at West Point. Rhattigan's named buzzed loudly in the lead up to the NFL draft, but ultimately his name wasn't called by the end of the third day.
The Seattle Seahawks then grabbed the phone and signed Rhattigan as an UDFA. Colby Patnode, who blogs about the Seahawks for SI.com, notes that while the rookie likely will not crack into the Seattle first-team defense this season, his drive, hustle and special teams experience makes Rhattigan a solid candidate to make the team's week 1 roster.
Rhattigan sits at 2nd on the Seahawks' depth chart at SLB, according to ESPN.com but was sidelined on Aug. 4th, with a hamstring injury. Head Coach Pete Carroll is quoted there as saying Rhattigan will be out "for about a week." 17 days later, however, Rhattigan is still listed as "questionable". The Seahawks' official website has not been updated as of this writing.
UPDATE: Rhattigan's status on ESPN.com has been updated to "Active" as of 8/26/2021.
Colorado native and stand-out Air Force offensive lineman, Nolan Laufenberg stayed close to home (again) when he was picked up by the Denver Broncos. As one of three linemen from the Falcons to go to the NFL this year, Laufenberg was a three-year starter for the Falcons and was named 1st-team All-Mountain West and a 2nd-team All-American, among other honors.
Laufenberg had a career at Air Force that beat writer Brent Briggeman compares to Air Force football legends like Chad Hennings, Carlton McDonald and Weston Steelhammer, so it was no surprise when his playing career took him to the other side of his hometown of Castle Rock, Co., and the Broncos.
Few details of Laufenberg's exploits at camp are available but, according to DevenrBroncos.com, he is hanging tight at third on the depth chart at LG. UPDATE: After not appearing in the first two preseason games for the Broncos, Laufenberg was waived on August 23rd, 2021.
Other NFL rookies from Service Academy teams haven't fared as well this summer.
Navy grad Cam Kinley seemed to be the belle of the ball this spring. After an impressive career at cornerback for the Midshipmen, and serving as a football team Tri-Captain his senior year, all of Kinley's dreams seemed to be coming true when, in early May, he was awarded an opportunity to play for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Then later that month, by virtue of his status as Class President, at Naval Academy Commencement he met Vice President Kamala Harris, delivered a rousing speech to his fellow graduates and led them in the traditional "three cheers for those we leave behind."
But Kinley's ride to the NFL seemed to derail before it could begin when he was denied an exemption by the Secretary of the Navy to delay his commission as an officer and pursue his NFL opportunity. In a high-profile story, Kinley appealed to the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin and was granted the exemption in early July enabling him to report to the Bucs' training camp.
His time with Tampa Bay was short-lived, however. He was cut by the Bucs after their first preseason game on August 15th. Kinley is a free agent and his exemption keeps him eligible to catch on with another team.
Another Colorado native, George Silvanic shined in his senior year at Air Force after transitioning from offensive line to the defense. Although Air Force played a shortened schedule in 2020, Silvanic got noticed and was signed by the Los Angeles Rams. Always a long-shot to make the team, Silvanic was cut by the Rams on August 16th.
Offensive lineman Parker Ferguson earned 1st Team All-Mountain West in 2020 for his stellar play in the short Air Force season and signed as an UDFA with the New York Jets. But just a few weeks into Jets' camp Ferguson was placed on the season-ending injured reserved list. No details of his injury were released.
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