From Football Field to Battlefield: Gridiron Heroes Who Served Their Country!

America’s NFL heroes play their hearts out on the field every autumn trying to achieve glory on the gridiron. For some men who played professional football, something greater called to them. These are of 10 men who served their country in the U.S. military before or after NFL careers.

Joe Cardona, U.S. Navy

Joe Cardona graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was drafted by the New England Patriots as a long snapper. After his rookie season ended in January 2015, Cardona immediately went to train in Norfolk, Virginia before going to his duty station on the U.S.S. Zumwalt.

Glen Coffee, U.S. Army

Glen Coffee had a great career playing for the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide. After one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009, he left the NFL and thought about what he wanted to do in life. In 2013, Coffee enlisted in the U.S. Army to become a paratrooper.

Maurice “Footsie” Britt, U.S. Army

Maurice “Footsie” Britt was a rookie for the Detroit Lions in 1941 while serving in the U.S. Army reserves as a 2nd Lieutenant. He joined the infantry in 1942 as part of World War II. Britt was badly wounded in Italy where he lost an arm. He is one of only two NFL players to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, as of June 2016.

Rocky Bleier, U.S. Army

The U.S. Army drafted Rocky Bleier following his first season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While on patrol in Vietnam in 1969, the enemy ambushed Bleier’s unit and shrapnel lodged in his leg. Doctors told him he’d never play football again, but Bleier fought against the odds and earned a starting spot for the Steelers in 1974. Bleier won four Super Bowls with Pittsburgh.

Chad Hennings, U.S. Air Force

Chad Hennings elected to College Football Hall of Fame
Chad Hennings was one of the best defensive players to come out of the Air Force Academy. The defensive end graduated in 1988 and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Following 4 years as a pilot, Hennings played for the Cowboys from 1992 to 2000 and earned three Super Bowl rings.

Bryce Fisher, U.S. Air Force

Bryce Fisher, like Hennings, was a defensive end for the Air Force Academy. Fisher graduated in 1999 but deferred his time in the NFL for 2 years so he could serve on active duty. Hennings spent the next 9 years in the reserves and earned the rank of captain.

Nate Boyer, U.S. Army Green Beret

Nate Boyer enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2005 and earned his spot with the Green Berets. After finishing active duty, Boyer enrolled in the University of Texas and became a long snapper. Boyer spent part of 2015 on the preseason squad of the Seattle Seahawks.

Jeremy Staat, U.S. Marine Corps

Jeremy Staat played at Arizona State University as a defensive end. He played in the NFL for various teams from 1999 until 2003. Then he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006 and served in the Iraq War.

Alejandro Villanueva, Army Ranger

Alejandro Villanueva went undrafted out of the U.S. Military Academy after a good career as a wide receiver, offensive lineman and defensive end. Undeterred, Villaneuva earned a Bronze Star as an Army Ranger for 4 years, including three tours in Afghanistan. This hero earned the rank of captain and started 10 games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.

Daniel Rodriguez, U.S. Army

Daniel Rodriguez earned the rank of sergeant in U.S. Army. Rodriguez was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star while seeing action in the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan. The young man returned to civilian life as a member of the Clemson Tigers in 2010 before trying out for the St. Louis Rams. If you like these stories of veterans and football, [check out this old timer] who returned to his alma mater for a flag football game.

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