Broncos Rookie DE to Choose Between Football and Flight

Denver Broncos rookie defensive lineman Ben Garland has a decision to make:

1. Accept his spot in a pilot training program at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, which would give him a chance to fly jets during his five-year commitment to the Air Force, or

2. Spend two years in the Finance Department at the Air Force Academy while pursuing an NFL career as time permits, a path that current Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Chad Hall has taken.

"It's such a golden ticket either way," said Garland, according to the Associated Press. "If I were able to somehow make this team, what an amazing experience. And if I have any sort of career as an Air Force officer, what a dream, too. Something will work out."

The 6-5, 292-pound Garland, who would have to shed considerable weight to become a pilot, appeared in 41 games at Air Force, totaling 117 tackles, including 22 for a loss and 11.5 quarterback sacks. Garland played some nose tackle in college, but has been working at the "5" technique in the Broncos' 3-4 system.

Garland has received advice from Hall and Chad Hennings, an 11th round pick (290th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1988 NFL Draft, who opted to pursue the pilots training program, and flew missions in northern Iraq during the Gulf War. After five years, Hennings was able to pursue a football career, and spent nine years with the Cowboys, earning three Super Bowl rings.

Hennings sees how having Garland pursuing an NFL career might be beneficial to the Air Force.

"When I was playing in the Super Bowl or the NFC championship games, John Madden would circle me with his pen and say, 'Chad's an Air Force graduate' or 'Chad flew in Gulf War' or 'How the heck did Chad fit into that cockpit?'" Hennings said. "That's indirect marketing the Air Force can't pay for. I'm glad I did both. It worked out perfect for me."

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