New bill would allow Army NFL draft prospect Andre Carter II to embark on pro career in 2023

A congressional bill passed last week was poised to hinder athletes from military academies, such as 2023 NFL Draft prospect Andre Carter II of Army, from embarking on pro-sports careers, but the language concerning the policy has been altered in a new provision.

Now there’s hope that Carter and other upperclassman service-academy athletes will not have to perform their mandatory two years of active-service duty immediately after graduation.

Language in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, posted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations website on Tuesday, grandfathers in all athletes enrolled prior to June 1, 2021 to the former eligibility rules, as first reported by ESPN. Under the new wording, those candidates — including Carter — can apply for a waiver that allows them to go pro immediately.

Carter, an edge rusher from Army and possible top-50 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, figured to be among the people most affected by the new bill. He already has accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and projects to be the Black Knights’ highest pick in the common-draft era, which began in 1967. He finished his college football career with 20 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.

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There was surprise and even outrage in military athletics departments last week when Congress passed its annual defense budget bill that prevented deferment of service. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump changed policy to allow service-academy athletes to go pro upon graduation and defer their service, pending approval from the defense secretary.

In the days after Carter and Army earned a dramatic overtime win against rival Navy on Dec. 10 — which was the final collegiate contest of Carter’s career, with the 6-6 Black Knights not selected to a bowl game — he and his family were left to scramble. All of a sudden, Carter’s NFL dreams potentially were in doubt.

The pushback against the provision in the defense budget bill passed last week created momentum for the altered language in the appropriations measure, which could soon be passed by Congress and sent to the desk of President Joe Biden.

Follow Eric Edholm on Twitter.

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