News>Air Force Lt. finishes Bronco's mini-camp, continues to follow dream
Benjamin Garland stretches during a Denver Broncos mini-camp session June 13, 2012. Garland graduated with the Air Force Academy Class of 2010 and began his Air Force career as a strength and conditioning coach for the Academy. He is currently assigned to the 140th Wing Public Affairs Office, Colorado Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Gross)
Denver Broncos defensive end Benjamin Garland poses for a photo following a mini-camp session June 13, 2012. Garland graduated with the Air Force Academy Class of 2010 and began his Air Force career as a strength and conditioning coach for the academy. He is currently assigned to the 140th Wing Public Affairs Office, Colorado Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Gross)
Benjamin Garland makes his way around a “dummy bag” during a Denver Broncos mini-camp session June 13, 2012. Garland participated in the three-day mini-camp which took place from June 12-14. He is currently assigned to the 140th Wing Public Affairs Office, Colorado Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Gross)
by Senior Airman Christopher Gross
460th Space Wing Public Affairs
6/19/2012 - ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AFNS) -- As another year of the National Football League season nears, military members might want to pay closer attention to their TVs as one of their own maybe lining up on the gridiron Sunday afternoons.
Benjamin Garland, a Grand Junction, Colo. native, recently completed the Denver Broncos three-day mini-camp and seemed happy with how things are going thus far.
"It's always been my dream to play for the Broncos; being a Colorado native, you couldn't ask for anything more than playing for your hometown team," Garland said. "It's one of the most challenging things (I've) ever experienced. It's tough, it's difficult, but as every Airmen knows, that's not something you shy away from. It's that challenge every Airmen loves."
After receiving his commission from the Air Force Academy in 2010, Garland received several offers as a free agent from teams around the league. One of them being the Broncos, and he said it was an offer he couldn't pass up.
"It's been my dream to be in the Air Force ever since I was a little kid," said the nearly 300 pound defensive end. "I love the Air Force-every moment of it, and it was a really tough decision, but being a member of the Broncos is my dream. I have to pursue it as well as staying in the Guard and continue to work for the Air Force."
After receiving permission, Garland used his 60 days of post-graduation leave from the Academy to try out for the Broncos in 2010, eventually signing a three-year contract with the team.
Garland said it hasn't been easy, and it's a constant battle of proving himself every day to show he deserves a spot on the team. He said it's a completely different atmosphere from when he was playing for the Academy.
"It's the professionals-you're talking faster, more powerful and stronger (players). You can make an error in college and get away with it. You can can't make an error and get away with it in the NFL," he said.
His hard work and dedication to two different organizations hasn't gone unnoticed either. Broncos defensive tackle Justin Bannan, in his 11 NFL season, knows a hard worker when he sees one.
"The guy can outwork anybody when it comes to running and training," Bannan said. "For a big guy like himself, to run as hard as he can and go as hard as he can, I think he just pushes everybody and kind of sets the standard."
Not only was Bannan impressed with his athleticism and motivation on the field but also his off-field commitment with the Guard as well. He said he has a lot of respect for Garland's tremendous commitment and sacrifice, "it shows what kind of unselfish human being that he is."
Garland has applied the Air Force core values not only in his military career but also with the Broncos, according to Bannan, who's known Garland since graduating from the Academy in 2010. He's seen him use those characteristics every day and has never seen him slack on something or take a day off.
Now, two years later, he finds himself back in Colorado assigned to the 140th Public Affairs Office, Colorado Air National Guard, at Buckley AFB, Colo. where he'll make his Guard time up during the off-season.
6/27/2012 4:11:26 PM ET Congrats to the LtAs for the negative comments if you refer to AFI 36-3205 para 220.127.116.11 it outlines options to Palace Chase for YES potential recruiting or public affairs opportunities for the Air Force. He is just pursuing his dreams so sorry that you didn't.
6/27/2012 11:35:34 AM ET The opportunities for servicemen to enter the pro ranks is rare and the propronderence of Academy athletes have no aspirations to go pro..they are as surprised as any when the opportunity happens. Keep in mind the services sponsor servicemen who compete at the national and world class level in other disciplines. We should support these athletes knowing how rare they are.
Boomdad135, Beale AFB CA
6/21/2012 1:02:30 PM ET I agree with both sentiments... it IS a pretty sweet deal that most of us don't get to have our active-duty time waived so we can make a ton of cash as a pro athlete. And heck yes, I'd do exactly the same thing if I were in his shoes and was born with the right DNA to play in the NFL. Why not take the best of both worlds as long as the loopholes exist? So congrats, sir, and yes, we're all jealous.
Stuart, Planet Earth
6/20/2012 4:36:27 PM ET Not the first Service Academy grad to go pro - Roger Staubach enjoyed a long football career but fulfilled his Naval Academy commitment before playing in the NFL. And don't most Guard units drill on Saturdays and Sundays? Service Before Self
6/20/2012 1:02:26 PM ET Congrats sir no matter what other people below say its a huge accomplishment in which they could not do so they are mad congrats
6/20/2012 11:20:19 AM ET No one said he's the first or last. Define to me what full-service commitment is being met here, the commitment was altered in the interests of the individual. Do we release people from ADSC if they get a compelling opportunity as a civilian? The answer is no. Doing guard time is not what the AF signs up for when they give you a free education. He will serve roughly a year of AD time in a 5 year period and you're fooling yourself that this markets the AF.
Stinger, Salt Land
6/20/2012 10:46:34 AM ET Sir, Congratulations on achieving your goals both for the AF and the Broncos! Hope you make the final team. This young man is not the first military academy grad to participate in a professional sport and won't be the last. They all serve their full commitment as well as advocate for our armed services while playing.
6/19/2012 4:11:42 PM ET Core Values Service before self doesn't include placing your commitment to the AF second to your dream. Sorry but the USAFA is not a National Guard pipeline and if he's got this waived I hope it's proportial commitment. Does 5 years of one weekend a month and two weeks a year come out to
Stinger, Salt Land
6/19/2012 3:22:13 PM ET It sickens me to think of the waste this represents. Letting people out of AD commitments to go play sports after getting a free education at USAFA. The nonsense about it's value to recruiting or the image it presents just repulses me. At a lean time where people are getting RIF'd where would be Cadets with a genuine interest in true service are turned away we have this garbage gumming up the ranks. Couple this with academic integrity drug and sexual assault busts at the AFA and you've got something the whole service can be proud of.
6/19/2012 1:14:25 PM ET Sir hope you make the cut and look fwd to seeing you on the field playing my KC Chiefs