When Eric Kettani was notified of his promotion to lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he was given a choice as to who would have the honor of pinning his new rank to his collar. The Redskins fullback chose his coach, Mike Shanahan, and his position coach, Bobby Turner.
“They’re great influences in my life,” Kettani said after the ceremony Monday at Redskins Park. “I thought it would be respectful to ask him to do it.”
On hand for the ceremony were Kettani’s parents, Collette and Mounir; his Navy host parents, Donna and Mike Titsworth; and his brother Amir. The oath was given by fellow officer Lt. Matthew Harmon, and Kettani was presented with a Redskins flag that had been flown over FedEx Field in his honor.
A few dozen of Kettani’s Redskins teammates also stayed after practice to watch the ceremony. The players sat in the back of the room and hooted at the right times, applauded when Kettani finished his oath and even teased Shanahan when he appeared to have trouble fastening the two bars, which designate his new rank, to the left collar of Kettani’s tan Naval uniform.
“It was awesome,” Kettani said of seeing so many familiar faces in the audience. “They’re my teammates and also my friends. They saw me downstairs putting my uniform on, and they told me I looked sharp.”
One of those players was fellow fullback Darrel Young, a potential competitor for a roster spot this season. But the events of the day were much bigger than any on-field competition. According to Kettani it was Young, who has a brother in the Army, who was the first player to salute him as lieutenant.
“I know how big of a day it is for him, just to be promoted,” Young said. “It was just an honor to know that Coach Shanahan could be a part of something like that, and I’m sure he’s appreciative to have a player who serves the country in more ways than just entertaining people on Sunday. It shows he’s proud of him.”
There’s certainly plenty to be proud of. Kettani graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2009 and served three years of active duty, including a deployment with the USS Klakring. Last year he signed a seven-year commitment to the Naval Reserves, all while maintaining his NFL activities.
Shanahan, who made it clear that he’s not concerned about conflicting commitments, said he’s honored to have an active member of the military be a part of his organization.
“He’s a great representative for our country. He’s everything you look for in a person,” the Redskins coach said. “I’ve had guys in the military but not lieutenant. I’ve got to salute to him now.”