Air Force Academy Defensive End Ryan Watson (right) grabs Abilene Christian University quarterback Dallas Sealey for an eventual sack in this Sept. 3, 2016 game. Watson registered 14.5 sacks in four seasons at defensive end and outside linebacker at the academy and was offered a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. Now a program manager with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Watson has been invited to the Detroit Lions rookie minicamp May 10-13. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle).

Detroit Lions invite AFLCMC officer at Wright-Patt to rookie minicamp

An Air Force Life Cycle Management Center acquisitions officer has been invited to an NFL Rookie Minicamp.

2nd Lt. Ryan Watson, an AFLCMC program manager, will attend the Detroit Lions Rookie Minicamp May 10-13 to showcase his physical and intellectual talent in hopes of signing an NFL contract.

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Watson worked out for the Lions April 17 and was immediately invited to the team’s rookie minicamp.

“Rookie minicamp is a time where they bring in rookies that they drafted, rookies that went undrafted but signed shortly after the draft, and other people who never played at the professional level that they want to give a look at,” said Watson. “From there it’s kind of a firehose experience of information, seeing how much players can retain and how they respond to pressure and high-stress situations. Those that do well get to move on closer to the season, those that don’t get sent home. It’s not padded practices, but you do get to show what you can do to a large extent.”

Unsigned rookies who perform well and impress coaches in a rookie minicamp are sometimes offered a contract during or after the minicamp. NFL rosters grow to 90 players prior to training camp through a combination of players under contract, along with recent draft picks, veteran free agent signings and undrafted free agents. Watson aims to be one of those undrafted free agent signings.

The AFLCMC officer is a 2017 Air Force Academy graduate and a four-year letterman with the academy’s football team. Playing at defensive end and outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, Watson amassed 97 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, in 38 college games.

Following the 2017 NFL draft, Watson was offered a contract with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. However, a change that year in Department of Defense policy required him to finish two years of active duty before being eligible to transfer to the Air Force Reserve and pursue a professional sports career.

Currently, Watson is making that transition to the Air Force Reserve and wrapping up his current assignment with AFLCMC’s Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate, working with the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System. It’s that AFLCMC team that has helped Watson maintain his motivation and commitment to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

“My entire unit has been pretty behind me since day one, checking in, encouraging me when I didn’t always feel the most optimistic and just has been as accommodating as they could without breaking regulations. Genuinely, I can’t express how much I owe the members of DEAMS over the past few years. I thank them, and my present and future family thanks them,” he said.

For Watson, the Detroit Lions’ invitation to minicamp caps off two years of dedication and commitment, concentrating on performing his Air Force duties and continuing the aggressive physical workout regimen necessary to stay in football shape.

“The two biggest sacrifices were easily leave and leisure time. When I wasn’t in the office I was working out. Whether that involved working out in the morning before work, combining gym time with my lunch break, or working out after work, I was doing it. Most of the time some combination of the three. It was rough at times trying to balance putting on weight as well as cardio requirements and other things without a professional trainer,” said Watson.

If signed by the Detroit Lions, Watson would become the latest Airman currently active in the NFL, joining current New Orleans Saints tight end Garrett Griffin, and San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Ben Garland.

The Air Force’s NFL connection also grew by one more Airman as Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class Austin Cutting was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Vikings. Cutting will begin his active-duty service commitment later this year. Under current Department of Defense policy, he must serve at least two years on active duty but will be able to attend minicamps and training camps while on leave.

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