West Point graduate avoids active duty after being re-signed to the Seahawks

Jon Rhattigan (Instagram)

Gregg Bell, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Apr. 19—Jon Rhattigan isn’t re-joining the Army.

Not just yet.

The Seahawks announced Tuesday they have re-signed the linebacker and special-teams player who played in 14 games as an undrafted rookie in the 2021 season. The former Army Black Knight, the first West Point graduate to play for the Seahawks, was among eight restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents Seattle re-signed for 2022.

The others are wide receiver Penny Hart, guard Phil Haynes, defensive tackle Bryan Mone, linebacker Tanner Muse, safety Ryan Neal, cornerback John Reid and center Dakoda Shepley.

The Seahawks also re-signed Geno Smith. The 31-year-old quarterback will compete with, for now, Drew Lock and Jacob Eason to replace traded Russell Wilson as Seattle’s quarterback in 2022.

The team made the announcements on the first day of its offseason workout program. The Seahawks have two weeks of weight lifting and rehabilitation work in the training room before the second offseason phase, workouts on a field.

Rhattigan is rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery this winter. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in Seattle’s loss at the Los Angeles Rams in December.

He is part of the Pentagon granting active-duty service deferments for graduates of military service academies who earn professional sports contracts.

If Rhattigan didn’t get an NFL contract for last year or this year, from Seattle or any other team, the terms of his service deferment from the Department of the Army say he is poised to receive his delayed commission and begin serving as his West Point classmates already are: on active duty in the Army.

Rhattigan was one of four service academy graduates to get deferments of their active-duty assignments to pursue NFL roster spots in the summer of 2021. The others were Nolan Laufenberg ( Denver Broncos) and George Silvanic ( Los Angeles Rams) from the Air Force Academy, plus Cameron Kinley ( Tampa Bay Buccaneers) from the Naval Academy.

The Seahawks had a Naval Academy graduate playing for them in 2018, Keenan Reynolds. He was on Seattle’s practice squad then played two games that season as a wide receiver.

Reynolds entered the NFL drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. He initially was on a Department of Defense policy similar to the one that’s allowed Rhattigan onto the Seahawks: a two-year waiver of his service time. Then the Trump Administration changed that. Lieutenant Junior Grade Reynolds was allowed to play in the NFL while the Navy put him on active-reserve status as a cryptologic warfare officer. He’s now out of the NFL and continuing to serve as a Naval officer.

Rhattigan wants to serve his country. Every cadet does. No one goes to a service academy seeking to avoid its obligation serving our nation on active military duty for years. There are colleges for that. Cadets at West Point and the Air Force Academy and midshipmen at the Naval Academy are volunteering to defend the Constitution, as Rhattigan did by taking that oath in 2017 fresh out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois.

“Regardless of what happens, I’m going to represent myself, the Academy and the Army the best I can,” Rhattigan told The News Tribune last August, just before making the 2021 Seahawks out of training camp.

Most, if not all, his Seahawks teammates have had no understanding of what’s been at stake for Rhattigan to get a contract from Seattle the last two years. The life of a military academy graduate isn’t exactly common NFL locker-room talk.

“For the most part, no,” Rhattigan said. “Some might have family members here and there, but certainly it’s a football focus out here.

“I certainly talk about it a good bit. A lot of people are interested. It is an interesting path for me to have gotten here, so I like to share some of my experiences.

“It can be applicable, both in football and just leadership, life on and off the field. It’s good for me to be good at telling what I went through, and how the Army and military life can apply to football.

“Certainly, people are curious about it.”

Rhattigan said some of his Seahawks teammates have been “shocked” to learn he got up at 6 a.m. every day for four years, shined his shoes and his brass for uniform and room inspections, attended mandatory classes for physics, calculus, chemistry and engineering, went to summer Army training instead of the beach — while all other college football players prepared for the NFL by … well, being in college.

“At the same time, they expect it to be different. You know, you live a structured life, you live an organized life,” he said. “They are more just interested to hear what it was really like because they could only have an imagination about it.”

Technically, the Army considers Rhattigan to be in the Inactive Ready Reserve for three years.

“After my playing career, whenever that may be, I will still require five years of active duty, or service in some capacity,” he said.

The Seahawks made sure on Tuesday his playing career continues — and his military career waits.

This story was originally published April 19, 2022 2:41 PM.

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