Thursday, January 17, 2008

Aloha, Mr. Rabold

Air Force senior outside linebacker John Rabold recently returned to the academy from Hawaii, where he spent a week preparing for and playing in the Hula Bowl – a senior all-star game that acts in large part as a showcase for NFL scouts.

I spoke to Rabold this afternoon about his experience at the game.

Jake Schaller: What was it like at the Hula Bowl?
John Rabold: It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun out there. In the morning we had football practice and meetings and walk-throughs, but then by lunchtime we were done with the football aspects. We’d do community activities, sign autographs. But we were staying on the beach, so we got the opportunity to go to the beach almost every day.

JS: Where were you, exactly?
JR: We were in Honolulu, the Waikiki area. … It was great. The local people were really nice to us down there. We had all different types of food. But we had rice with about every meal so I’m laying off the rice a little now. We were having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

JS: How did you feel you measured up to the other players?
JR: I feel I measured up equally with the guys up there. When we first went up there it went through my head that I had been playing at an academy and people were saying that the Mountain West was not one of the top conferences in the country. But after playing up there and playing with some Mountain West people, I felt we were just as good or better than the people at the bigger, known schools.

JS: What was your interaction with pro scouts?
JR: Scouts were out there, and I talked to some of them. … They said they’d keep an eye on me and everything. They said they liked what they saw in me out there. They said I was faster than what they had suspected. And I was faster in practice than they thought I was. Practice was the key part. They looked at you more there than in the actual game. I’ve got a two-year commitment and they all know that, so I have to serve in the Air Force first and hopefully something will come up.

JS: Your teammate, Drew Fowler, will be playing in the East-West Shrine game Saturday. Did you share your experiences with him?
JR: I kept in touch with him. We talked about every day or exchanged text messages. I gave him a heads up, told him what to expect practice-wise and at all the meetings.

JS: Were you more encouraged about your pro prospects after the game?
JR: I was. I felt like I had a pretty good week of practice and played pretty well in the game. I thought I helped myself out there, and hopefully they saw I’m able to play and I’ll be willing to put in the hard work and make it to the next level. I think I did nothing but help myself.

JS: Will you be back to Hawaii?
JR: Most definitely. It was a great trip. I love the beach, so it definitely will be a trip I take in the future to get back there.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jake - what's your take on the 2 year commitment for pro-caliber athletes to serve on active duty? To me, it seems that the interests of the USAF and the Academy are much better served by allowing these guys to serve in the Reserves as Admissions Liaison Officers while pursuing a pro career. If it doesn't work out, bring them back to active duty for a few years. Navy's gotten a lot of milage out of David Robinson and Roger Staubach. It seems the AF could do the same.

jake.schaller said...

I think it's a pretty fair rule considering what cadets get (free education, pay, etc.). However, I think there should be some leeway written into the regulation so that a big-time player (like a Robinson) could perhaps go straight into the league. In other words, if a player was drafted and earned a spot on a team, maybe you make an exception.
But Air Force coach Troy Calhoun calls the rule fair and says that having two years off shouldn't totally kill a prospect's chances because he can still accrue leave to get to minicamps and the like.

Anonymous said...

I think an articulate, well-educated pro athlete can do a lot more good for the AF serving 10 years as an ALO, than they would serving 2 years as an active duty 2nd Lt in some anonymous role. Furthermore, it would demonstrate to the high school leader/athlete considering the Academy alongside other schools (where they would also get a free education) that the AF won't stand in the way of their dreams if they someday blossom into an athlete with pro potential. Active duty just isn't the best way for someone like that to contribute to the USAF.

Anonymous said...

I thought academy graduates had a 5 year committment?? How does Rabold manage a 2 year one?

jake.schaller said...

I thought about explaining this parenthetically in the Q&A. And now that I see it confused people, I certainly should have.
Rabold does have a five-year committment. The two-year committment he mentions is part of the AF's new policy, passed last year. It essentially says that an academy grad who has the opportunity to do something that will give the AF positive public relations (like playing in the NFL, for instance), must serve on active duty for two years first. Then, after those two years, if he still can secure a pro contract, he can play. And the remaining three years of active duty from his original committment become six years of reserve duty.
Make sense?