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College Football: Army, Navy picks take different paths

Associated Press
WASHINGTON ó A West Point graduate drafted by the Detroit Lions gets to put on his football pads right away, while a Naval Academy midshipman chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals is ordered to report to his ship for duty.
Possible new slogan for the Army: “Join us ó and you can do both!”
The distinct approaches from the two service academies became apparent when Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter ruled Thursday that Mitch Harris must serve a five-year active duty commitment. Harris, a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher with a 95-mph fastball, was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round in this month’s draft ó the second-highest pick in Navy history ó after a going 20-13 with a 2.51 ERA in four years for the Midshipmen, averaging 11.78 strikeouts per nine innings.
Instead of reporting to minor leagues, however, Harris is scheduled to report Monday for two weeks of school at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, then board the amphibious transport ship Ponce, where he said he’ll work as a weapons officer.
The Navy’s assertion: Events in Iraq and Afghanistan leave no room for exemptions for budding sports stars.
“At this point in time, the nation being at war takes precedence,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Karen Eifert said. “We need all of our manpower to be deployable to meet their service obligation.”
Harris said he was surprised “a little bit” by the ruling because Army strong safety Caleb Campbell, a seventh-round selection by the Lions in April, will be allowed to pursue football while completing his military service as a recruiter and in the reserves under the Alternative Service Option program.
Harris, nevertheless, made it clear he is prepared to serve.
“Never have I applied for anything, and never have I said I’m trying to get out of my five-year commitment,” Harris, a native of Ocala, Fla., who attended high school in North Carolina, said. “We are a nation at war, and I completely understand that.”

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