ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As another year of the National Football League season nears, military members might want to pay closer attention to their televisions as one of their own maybe lining up on the gridiron during those famous Sunday afternoons.
Benjamin Garland, a Grand Junction, Colo. native, recently completed the Denver Broncos three-day mini-camp, and seemed happy with how things are going thus far.
“It’s always been my dream to play for the Broncos, being a Colorado native, you couldn’t ask for anything more than playing for your hometown team,” a proud Garland said. “It’s one of the most challenging things [I’ve] ever experienced. It’s tough, it’s difficult, but as every airman knows, that’s not something you shy away from. It’s that challenge every airman loves.”
After receiving his commission from the Air Force Academy in 2010, Garland received several offers as a free agent from teams around the league. One of them being the Broncos and he said it was an offer he couldn’t pass up.
“It’s been my dream to be in the Air Force ever since I was a little kid,” said the nearly 300-pound defensive end. “I love the Air Force, every moment of it and it was a really tough decision, but being a member of the Broncos is my dream. I have to pursue it as well as staying in the guard and continue to work for the Air Force.”
After receiving permission, Garland used his 60 days of post-graduation leave from the academy to try out for the team back in 2010 and eventually signed a three-year contract with them.
Garland said it hasn’t been easy by any means and it’s a constant battle of proving himself everyday to show he deserves a spot on the team. He said it’s a completely different atmosphere from when he was playing for the academy.
“It’s the professionals, you’re talking faster, more powerful and stronger [players]. You can make an error in college and get away with it. You can can’t make an error and get away with it in the NFL,” he said.
His hard work and dedication to two different organizations hasn’t gone unnoticed either.
Broncos defensive tackle Justin Bannan, in his 11 NFL season, knows a hard worker when he sees one.
“The guy can outwork anybody when it comes to running and training,” Bannan said. “For a big guy like himself, to run as hard as he can and go as hard as he can, I think he just pushes everybody and kind of sets the standard.”
Not only was Bannan impressed with his athleticism and motivation on the field but also his off-field commitment with the guard as well. He said he has a lot of respect for the Garland’s tremendous commitment and sacrifice, “it shows what kind of unselfish human being that he is.”
Garland has applied the Air Force core values not only in his military career but also with the Broncos, according to Bannan, he’s seen him use those characteristics everyday and has never seen him slack on something or take a day off, he’s known Garland since 2010, when Garland was coming from the academy.
Now two years later, he finds himself back in Colorado assigned to the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, at Buckley AFB, Colo. where he’ll make his Guard time up during the offseason.