FOXBOROUGH — When running back Eric Kettani got the call from the Navy telling him he had won his appeal, there was a mixture of surprise and happiness.
After serving two years active duty in the Navy, he landed in the Patriots’s training camp last summer and earned a spot on the practice squad, but just as that was coming together he was recalled by the Navy in October.
“It was a decision that the Navy made, and I went back and I did my job and I served my country,” he said. “They asked me something and I did it. It was an order.”
He went to Newport, RI, then was stationed on a ship in Mayport, Fla., then went overseas for six months to South America and the Caribbean, doing drug interdiction operations and military-to-military operations.
But he held on to the possibility of playing football again.
In arguing the Navy’s decision, he had formed what he thought was a bulletproof argument, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vouched for him, and in April he was allowed to return.
“I’ve always had hope,” Kettani said. “Things have happened to me for a reason, like anybody else in life.”
He said he still has paperwork to process as he transfers into the Quincy reserves where he’ll work in public affairs, speaking at area high schools and colleges.
But after having his first run at the NFL cut short, he was excited to be active at OTAs.
“I wake up every day blessed,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m blessed to be here and I thank the Navy for giving me the opportunity.”
While on active duty, there wasn’t much time to even think about football.
“It was kind of tough,” he said. “When you’re full-time in the military, you don’t have time to pick up a playbook and study it as much as I would like to. It’s a full-time job when you’re in the Navy, working 20 hour days.”
Things are different now that he’s back in the Patriots locker room. There’s a new offensive coordinator and his playbook has some different wrinkles.
He said, “Things have changed a little bit, but I’m doing my best.”