- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013


The No. 40 jersey and helmet were gone, but sweat still trickled down Eric Kettani’s forehead.

Practice ended a half-hour earlier at Redskins Park. That gave the fullback who spent Monday with the first-team offense enough time to slick down his hair and swap uniforms.

SEE ALSO: Newly promoted U.S. Navy lieutenant Eric Kettani eyes Redskins roster spot

Kettani stood on a small stage in Navy khaki with creases that could cut glass, cap tucked under his belt and right hand raised. A green towel and water bottle sat off to the side. Lt. Matthew Harmon, his friend and former Naval Academy teammate who flew in from Japan, read from a blue card that fit in his hand.

“I, state your name,” Harmon said.

Joseph Silverman / The Washington Times
Fullback Eric Kettani led Navy with 880 yards last season and finished with 10 touchdowns.
Joseph Silverman / The Washington Times Fullback Eric Kettani led Navy with ... more >

“I, Eric Kettani,” he said.

“Do solemnly swear.”

“Do solemnly swear.”

About 30 Redskins in T-shirts and burgundy shorts leaned against walls and sprawled on chairs in the back of the auditorium. They kidded Kettani about the uniform when he changed in the locker room. He joked that they’ll need to salute him because he was being promoted to lieutenant.

Buddy and long snapper Nick Sundberg sat in the front row in a green T-shirt.

“I tried to dress up for the event,” he told Kettani’s family with a smile before the ceremony.

No uniform, khaki or burgundy, completely holds the 26-year-old Kettani. He spent three years on active duty, deployed aboard the frigate USS Klakring with 20-hour days and enough stress to make high-pressure situations seem normal. Last summer, he cut a deal with the Navy to trade his final two years of active-duty service for seven years in the reserves. That allowed the 2009 Naval Academy graduate, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards while studying economics, to end his tug-of-war between serving his country and pursuing professional football.

The Redskins stashed him on the practice squad last season, then gave him a three-year reserve/futures contract in January. That’s why coach Mike Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner stood on the stage in dress shirts and slacks. Kettani looks at them as mentors.

“To support and defend.”

“To support and defend.”

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