Garland passes on pilot training with NFL dreams alive

March 31, 2011
photo - Air Force grad Ben Garland in Broncos camp last season Photo by
Air Force grad Ben Garland in Broncos camp last season Photo by  

Ben Garland’s decision weighed on him for months, as he leaned on family, friends and those he respected, searching for some clarity.

In the end, he couldn’t be an Air Force pilot and pursue a NFL career with the Denver Broncos, so he gave up his spot in pilot training and asked for reclassification, which was granted. He will remain at the Air Force Academy to work, and the former Falcons defensive tackle can attend training camp with the Broncos this summer.

“Being a pilot was my dream since I was little,” Garland said. “But I think this choice I made was the way to pursue two dreams, to serve as an Air Force officer and go after being a Denver Bronco in the NFL.”

Garland was reassigned to public affairs. He will start in the physical education department at the academy on a three-year assignment. He will be one of 11 instructors responsible for teaching physical education classes, fitness testing and evaluations. After his three years are up his next stop will be in public affairs, his career field. He said he went to the reclassification board with a wish list of jobs (“Everything from security forces to finance to acquisitions,” he said) and bases in Colorado. He said he didn’t list public affairs as a choice, but that was fine with him.

“I was really happy,” Garland said.

The reclassification allows him to request to the Department of Defense that his final three years of his military commitment be turned into six years of reserve duty, which is allowed if he has a signed pro contract. Fellow Falcon Chad Hall did that last year, and played last season with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Had Garland accepted pilot training, the commitment is about 10 years — which would have realistically finished his chances of competing for a job in the NFL.

Garland was with the Broncos last offseason before being put on the military/reserve list but they have a new coach, John Fox. Garland said the new coaching staff indicated he is welcome at training camp this year. Garland said he could still become a pilot if his NFL dream doesn’t work out, although he admitted that would be a difficult process.

Garland sounded relieved that the decision was behind him.

“It was very, very tough,” Garland said.

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