A former West Point offensive tackle has been granted an exception by the Army in order to sign a three-year deal to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles, .
Brett Toth, an Army second lieutenant, graduated from West Point as a nuclear engineer in May 2018 and has fulfilled his first year of active duty service. But an executive order from President Donald Trump has now allowed him to be recruited by the Eagles.
On June 26, Trump issued an executive order that directed the Pentagon to develop a policy that authorizes new graduates of the service academies and ROTC programs to pursue professional sports immediately following graduation but prior to completing their service requirement.
Under the old policy crafted by former defense secretary James Mattis, graduates were required to fulfill two years of commissioned service in the military before pursuing a professional sports career.
"Such cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible," Trump said in the executive order. "At the same time, these student-athletes should honor the commitment they made to serve in the Armed Forces in exchange for the extraordinary benefits afforded to them at taxpayer expense at the Academies or ROTC programs. A revised policy will benefit the student-athletes, the Academies and ROTC programs, and the Armed Forces."
The executive order gave the Pentagon 120 days to develop the new policy, which has yet to be implemented. But based on the directive, two military services have gone ahead and granted exceptions allowing their graduates to go pro.
Prior to Toth's exception, the Air Force last month signed an exception for long snapper Austin Cutting, a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL draft.
Toth played in a total of 31 games for West Point, and was named to the 2017 Associated Press All-Bowl Team.
“Congratulations to 2nd Lt. Brett Toth, Class of 2018, who has the opportunity to play in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles,” Lt. Col. Chris Ophardt, USMA spokesman, said in a statement Friday. “He is an extraordinary leader of character with professional athletic ability. He will provide a great benefit to the Army while playing in the NFL.”
The Eagles welcomed Toth to the team on Twitter late Friday afternoon.
“As an Army officer, 2nd Lt. Brett Toth is part of the team that defends our nation," said Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith. "The Army is very excited that he will now have the opportunity to simultaneously pursue his dream as part of the Eagles team while continuing to serve as an active-duty soldier.”