HOUSTON — When Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Ben Garland was attending the Air Force Academy, he really wasn’t focused on pursuing a career in the NFL. Ben Garland is a former Scott Air Force Base Public Affairs Officer.
“I was thinking more so becoming an Air Force officer and being the best pilot I can be,” Garland said in Houston as his team was in the midst for preparing for Super Bowl LI.
The game, which is scheduled to kick off Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston at 5:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET), will have US military representation on both teams: New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona is in the Navy.
Garland, who is 28 and from Grand Junction, Colorado, was originally signed by the Denver Broncos as a college free agent in 2010. That same year, the Broncos placed him on the reserve/military list to serve his two-year military commitment. Garland returned in 2012 and spent two years on the Broncos practice squad.
The Falcons signed him on Sept. 9, 2015. He was a member of Atlanta’s practice squad for the first 14 weeks of the 2015 season before being signed to the active roster for the final three games.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has high praise for his lineman.
“He’s a guy that if you asked him to do anything, he would do it,” Ryan said. “And certainly, everybody in our locker room has so much respect for Ben, serving for us and our country, and attending Air Force. He’s one of a kind, and we’re lucky to have him on our team.”
Today, Garland is a captain for the Air National Guard. On Sunday, he has the chance to help Atlanta win the Super Bowl.
“I’ve gone from an Air Force officer to playing on offense, playing on defense, playing both ways, playing special teams,” Garland said. “It’s been a journey, but I’ve loved every moment of it.”