Army service ends; NFL career begins
May 10, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (May 10, 2012) -- He is trading in his camouflage uniform for a blue one. Although his biggest goal is about to come true, 1st Lt. Collin Mooney, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, is reminiscent about leaving the Army to play football for the Tennessee Titans.
"It's been a long journey for my wife and I the last three years," said Mooney. "She's been very supportive as far as me pursuing this and it's kind of a bittersweet deal because I'm leaving the Army, I'm leaving this unit that I've been with for two years, but on the other hand I'm going to play NFL football and pursue my dreams."
Mooney leaves for training camp this week, but he said when he began his military career attending West Point, the NFL was not his end goal. His grandfather influenced him to be an officer, and 9/11 also affected his decision to join the Army.
"Every little kid in the back of their mind says they want to play for the NFL, but going into West Point, the NFL was never my intention," said Mooney. "I had actually applied to West Point prior to being recruited for football. Being an officer and being in the Army is what I wanted to do coming out of high school. It just so happened the way things worked out with football, I worked hard and I got a chance my senior year to do something and start so things just kind of fell into place."
Mooney broke Army's single-season rushing record his senior year with 1,339 yards and recruiters took notice. To be able to sign a military academy graduate they would have to wait at least two years for Mooney to fulfill his minimum contract to the Army first.
"It kind of got the ball rolling of maybe I want to play in the NFL maybe I do want to pursue this and then I got to thinking about it ... it's kind of a long shot, two years is kind of a huge long shot for me," said Mooney.
So he started making plans for a military career by going to Ranger school and taking other necessary steps to progress as an officer.
"Finally, I did a pro day at [University of Oklahoma] and things went really well and I thought maybe something would happen. A couple teams actually brought me in and then the lockout happened last year. It was like a lot of opportunity kind of went away because it was a frenzy of signing once the lockout ended, so I kind of got lost in the sauce," said Mooney.
Despite the setback, Mooney decided to stick with his dreams of playing in the NFL and stepped up his training with Aso Pogi and Josh Wolverton at "Next Level." His daily schedule included unit physical training or 5 a.m. speed workouts, a full day of work including frequent field training exercises, two hours of lifting and then football practice which left him time to eat dinner and sleep.
The extremely regimented schedule paid off as he went to the super regional combine and showed off his hard work.
"I started getting calls closer to the draft from Tennessee, Jacksonville, New York Jets and New York Giants," said Mooney.
Ironically, going into the NFL may be a break from his daily grind.
"To me it's exciting because it's like I've been able to perform the way I have even while working another job. Now I get to see, 'well what can I do if I'm just focusing on this?'"
Mooney said the Army has taught him the discipline that was necessary and the never-say-die attitude that has helped him keep hope for the past three years.
"You always have to have goals to reach, that was something that I learned very early at West Point. They always had goal setting and then you would use those goals to create positive affirmations: I want to sign with an NFL team, alright well what do I have to do to sign with that team? So I do this every day, I do this every day, I do this three times a week ... now that I've reached the signing goal the next goal is to make the active roster," said Mooney.
Mooney said the support from his wife, family and the community is the reason he's made it so far.
"I never quit and no one around here ever quit on me, which I can really appreciate. I'm really thankful for everyone all the way up to the [commanding general] every time I talked to someone they encouraged me to keep going for it," he said. "Everyone in the Lawton-Fort Sill community has been encouraging."
While he takes his excitement with him and his new set of goals, he is closing the door on an Army career - one that he will look back on fondly.
"I wrote a little letter to all the NCOs (noncommissioned officers) saying that this will be my first and only Army assignment. So when I'm one of those old Army guys when I'm 70, 80 years old, I'll be talking about this unit, this battery, these NCOs and these guys that I worked with. That's going to stay with me for the rest of my life."