Daryn Colledge’s time as an NFL player and Super Bowl champion allowed him to frequently travel and meet the troops defending this country, men and women he long admired.
Now he’s one of them.
Colledge, a 34-year-old former offensive lineman for Boise State and the NFL’s the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, joined the Idaho National Guard in March. He’s stationed at Fort Eustis near Newport News, Virginia, while he trains to be a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic with the 168th Aviation Regiment.
Colledge declined an interview request with The Virginian-Pilot, but appeared in an internal Army news story at Fort Eustis earlier this month.
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“When I decided to step away from professional sports, I wanted to fall back on my degree of communications, and I did that, but soon realized that world didn’t appeal to me,” Colledge said in the Army story.
“I came from a business where you’re in a fight all the time, and it’s a physical team thing. I didn’t find that in the normal day-to-day life. Then I saw that being a Soldier would keep me hands-on, active and keep me in that team environment that I craved and needed so much.
He likely didn’t need the extra paycheck. During his nine seasons in the NFL, Colledge made more than $24.5 million, according to spotrac.com, a site that tracks professional athletes’ pay. After playing his final season with Miami in 2014, he retired in Boise, where he was a standout at Boise State.
Read the full story from The Virginian-Pilot here.
Colledge garnered headlines throughout the sporting world in March when he decided to enlist. He posted on Twitter at the time that he wanted “to join a new team, start a new chapter, and seek out a new adventure.
“After a year of retirement, a much needed vacation, and overdue time with my family, I’ve decided to hit the free agent market. After much deliberation, and discussion, I’m proud to sign my longest term deal of all time, 8 yrs and have enlisted in the Army National Guard,” he wrote.
It’s rare for a professional athlete to join the military, and Colledge’s enlistment quickly drew comparisons to former Arizona Cardinals player Pat Tillman, who became an Army Ranger before he was killed in Afghanistan in a friendly-fire incident.
“Pat is a hero. I’m just a man working in the shadow of a giant. Just trying to catch up,” Colledge wrote on Twitter.
Colledge grew up in North Pole, Alaska, a suburb of Fairbanks, where he learned to fly small aircraft in the Alaskan backcountry. Working in aviation for the Army was a natural fit for him.
He says his particular unit is ideal because it is active when it comes to fighting forest fires and search-and-rescue missions in Idaho. There’s a possibility he could get into a flying position in the future, according to the Idaho National Guard.
As a player, Colledge often sported a beard and hair that sometimes reached his shoulders. But military photos show that look has been replaced by a clean-shaven face and a closely cropped haircut.
Colledge will return to Idaho once his advanced training at Fort Eustis is complete. While he’s only required to report to duty one weekend a month and two weeks a year, Colledge said he wants to do more, according to the Army story.
“Mechanics are lucky enough to get to serve over 60 days a year, and I plan on filling all of those days plus the opportunities to volunteer for other missions, like fire suppression and search and rescue,” Colledge said. “For me, it’s not just a hobby, I’ll be in there full time if they allow me.”
He said he’s already planning to re-enlist once his contract is over.