FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Life's journey often takes unexpected turns, as one NFL prospect recently discovered when he decided to join the Army.
Kevin Vereen Jr., 26, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and former D1 college football player, enlisted in the military occupational specialty of 25Q, or multichannel transmission systems operator maintainer, in late April, a decision he hadn't considered previously despite having grown up in an Army family.
"I didn't consider joining the Army before college, mainly because during my junior year of high school, I started receiving football recruiting letters from various schools and offers soon after," he said. "So, my focus was on athletics as a way to earn my education and a possible professional athletic career afterward."
With a goal in mind, Vereen went on to attend the University of Northern Iowa, where he had a successful college football career. He became a 2015 prospect for the NFL as a potential fourth round draft pick. However, he sustained a career-ending injury that prevented him from continuing on to the draft.
Having earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology and exercise science, Vereen began a career in pharmaceuticals as a sales representative. It was during this time that he established a new dream and began looking for ways to achieve it, which ultimately led him to consider the Army.
"My motivation for joining the Army was the want and hunger to be part of something greater than myself," Vereen said. "My dream is to become a doctor or surgeon, and I thought I'd love to do that and take care of Soldiers and their Families. I decided to go for it!"
Vereen selected the 25Q MOS so he could learn different skills that could be used outside of the Army. Even though he wants to pursue a medical career, the communications skills give him additional options to draw on later.
"The Army is a great career option for anyone who is willing to work hard and still give back," he said. "There are opportunities for almost anything you want to do, and even if you don't stay in for 20 years, it can set you up for future success in civilian life."
As he looks forward to his new career and the new challenges ahead, Vereen is excited about the possibilities, opportunities and experiences to come. He's also drawing on his father's career and experiences as a source of motivation and determination.
"The Army has been good to my family for many years," Vereen said. "Seeing the success my dad has had and all the things he's accomplished has given me a hunger to do the exact same thing. Knowing how dedicated he has always been to his Soldiers makes me want to be the same kind of Soldier."
Vereen's father, Brig. Gen. Kevin Vereen, deputy commanding general of operations, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, has had a 30-year career that has taken him from a young platoon leader in Field Artillery to a brigadier general holding one of the most senior positions in the military police corps, the commandant of the United States Army Military Police School.
"I am extremely proud of Kevin's decision to join the Army," Brig. Gen. Vereen said. "Throughout his life I have not tried to persuade him to join the military, but ultimately it's the Army that he's decided to become a member of. Now that he has done so, it is my hope he will soon come to see for himself, this is an awesome team to be part of."
Because of the proximity of his location to his father's and the timing of events, Vereen had the opportunity to have his father be the one to enlist him. On April 19, Brig. Gen. Vereen delivered the Oath of Enlistment to his son at the Louisville, Kentucky, Military Entrance Processing Station.
"Having my father enlist me was one of those things you just can't describe in one word," Vereen said. "It was joyful and emotional. I know it's a big deal to have someone of his rank swear you in, but it's just a whole different feeling when it's someone you know and love and someone you've idolized since you were 4 years old. It made the whole experience that much better. I know I've been blessed with the best dad ever, and having him share that moment with me was powerful -- something I'll never forget."
Vereen was not the only one to feel the emotion and significance of the moment. His father also felt it, but in a different way, as a knowledgeable Soldier and parent.
"It was one of the greatest opportunities I have experienced in my life -- yet still one that struck up a lot of emotion," Brig. Gen. Vereen said. "Every parent who has served and has had children serve, knows that this is a business that will likely require us to serve in harm's way in defense of our nation and Constitution. I remain confident that the training he receives from our leaders will prepare him for anything he is required to do."