Donald Trump has been heavily criticized, sometimes even vilified, for his strong views opposing Colin Kaepernick. The debate on that one will never end. On Friday, Trump was credited with helping a military academy athlete pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Brett Toth signed a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles following efforts by Trump allowing him to forego his military service and clear military waivers. Toth, a second lieutenant in the Army who graduated as a nuclear engineer in May 2018, was the first player from West Point to play in the Senior Bowl.
The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder from South Carolina had been projected to be a seventh-round pick in last April’s NFL draft. However, Toth was ineligible to enter the draft due to his required military commitment. On Friday, he was given clearance from army leadership to sign with the Eagles.
Trump had been instrumental in getting the measure passed, including directing Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to develop policy to allow military athletes to play professionally upon graduation. According to The Hill, Trump signed a presidential memo “authorizing graduates of service academies to go directly to the pros, consistent with their military service obligation.”
“Once implemented, the President’s policy will empower our cherished Academies to compete even better in sporting activities against other colleges and universities, benefitting student-athletes and the Armed Forces,” then-press secretary Sarah Sanders told The Hill. “The President wants our military to be strong in all respects, even in athletics.”
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Brett Toth Gives Eagles Depth at Tackle
The logical move is the Eagles place Brett Toth on their practice squad, although it’s not impossible for him to make the final 53-man roster. The Eagles already boast a deep and talented offensive line. However, there have been scattered rumblings of the team looking to trade either Halapoulivaati Vaitai or Lane Johnson. Both potential trades are considered extreme longshots.
Toth was a four-year player for Army where he racked up some impressive accolades in a run-heavy attack. He was the starting right tackle in 2017 in games against Fordham, Buffalo, Ohio State, Tulane, UTEP, Rice, EMU, Temple, Air Force, Duke, North Texas and Navy. Toth landed on the Outland Trophy Watch List, an award given to the best college football interior lineman in the United States, and was named 2017 Associated Press All-Bowl Team.
Toth was fully prepared to fulfill his pre-mandated military service without incident. That’s what he had willingly and proudly signed up for in the first place. According to SB Nation, Toth had planned to report to Fort Hood, Texas after graduation from West Point May 25.
“If the Army and military believes I deserve it, they would provide it to me,” Toth told SB Nation. “It’s not my position to lobby for something like that, because I went to West Point fully committed to doing the service time, and I believe I should stick to that commitment.”
His journey has been compared to Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. He went undrafted in 2010 and eventually signed with the Eagles in 2014 to play defensive end. However, he gained almost 40 pounds and the team cut him in the middle of preseason. Villanueva went on to find a home in Pittsburgh and has been one of the best tackles in football. He inked a four-year, $24 million contract extension in 2017.