By John Van Winkle
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affair
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) — Four years of fighting in the NFL trenches earned a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate a spot on the Denver Broncos’ roster, Aug. 30.
Class of 2010 grad and former Air Force Falcon football athlete Ben Garland is now a second-string offensive guard, backing up Pro-Bowler Louis Vasquez at left guard and Orlando Franklin at right guard.
“It was a dream come true,” Garland said. “I’m still waiting to wake up. I can’t stop still smiling and it’s one of the happiest moments of my life.”
NFL teams cut their training camp rosters from 75 to the regular-season limit of 53 after their final preseason game. The final preseason game for the Broncos was Aug. 28 against the Dallas Cowboys.
“For those couple of days after the last game against the Dallas Cowboys, you’re just hoping not to hear bad news and just waiting it out,” Garland said.
Garland was one of many players on the bubble dreading the upcoming cuts but now that he’s survived the cutoff, he said his job now is to, “prepare every single day to get better.”
The former Falcon has “determination like no other,” said Broncos general manager and former quarterback John Elway.
“He’s very bright; he’s tough and just worked his tail off to earn a spot on the team,” Elway said. “So he’s just going to continue to get better and better too because he hasn’t been over there. He’s very inexperienced in the offensive line but he’s got the qualities that we believe that (he) can be a very good offensive lineman and also be a guy that eventually can probably swing center (and) guard so (we have a ) lot of flexibility with Ben.”
Coaches have asked him to switch positions to have a better chance of making the team. Garland moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard in 2012.
Garland was signed to the Broncos’ practice squad in 2012 and transferred from active duty to the Colorado Air National Guard’s 140th Fighter Wing at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado as a public affairs officer.
He joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent defensive lineman in 2010, spending his leave and days off in training camp with the team.
Garland’s military commitment put him on the Broncos’ reserve-military list for 2010 and 2011, allowing the team to retain his rights but not have him count against their active or practice squad rosters. Defense Department policy required Garland to serve at least 24 months of active duty before applying for transfer to the Guard or Reserve if signed by an NFL team.