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Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer gets tryout with Eagles before active duty begins

PHILADELPHIA -- The name alone -- Weston Steelhammer -- is enough to garner attention, as it has both in the Philadelphia Eagles' locker room (fellow teammates were snapping photos of the nameplate above his stall) and even nationally.

"'Saturday Night Live' did a porn-star play with it," he said following the first day of rookie camp Friday. "That one didn't go over too well with the parents."

There's more to this story than just the name, however. Steelhammer, a safety out of Air Force, received word during draft weekend that his goal of playing for an NFL team this season was no longer possible. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense adjusted its policy so pro-athlete hopefuls could defer active-duty service commitments immediately. It was announced during draft week that the policy had changed, and now “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve status which would permit their participation in professional sports."

The news, as you might imagine, caught Steelhammer off guard.

"It all came at once like a fire hose," said Steelhammer, who discovered his fate by reading a newspaper article.

"I think I found out about it the same time you guys did," Steelhammer said. "Maybe that was a miscommunication, misinterpretation, I don't know, but it went down the way it did and we've got to make the most of it."

Steelhammer will head to San Antonio in the fall, when he'll work on the business side of things in logistics and acquisitions while trying to stay football-ready. He's allowed to play ball in the meantime and will spend at least the next several days with the Eagles, who considered him a potential undrafted free-agent target before the rule change. He had several rookie-camp invites but felt like the Eagles gave him the best opportunity. Coach Doug Pederson knows Steelhammer from his high school coaching days at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. Steelhammer grew up with Pederson's oldest son, Drew.

"It's great to have those connections, to know these guys and then get him in here, get him going and get him working just to see where he's at," Pederson said.

Steelhammer (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) racked up an eye-grabbing 18 career interceptions for Air Force, including seven this past season to go with 80 tackles (4.5 for loss), a sack and a forced fumble. He believed that whether it was in the latter rounds of the draft or as an undrafted free agent, he would find a home in the league. He still plans on playing in the NFL, but he'll have to wait two years, barring some kind of exemption or another change in policy.

He is not the first person who has been in this situation. Former Eagles receiver Chad Hall, for example, served two years before landing in Philadelphia in 2010. Same for Atlanta Falcons lineman Ben Garland. Steelhammer's Air Force teammate Jalen Robinette, a receiver, will travel a similar path. He is in rookie camp with the Buffalo Bills.

This is not exactly how Steelhammer dreamed it up, but he has at least a weekend -- and perhaps a spring and summer -- to get a taste of the NFL to help sustain him while he serves his country.

"Looking forward to it," he said. "Feel like it's two years for me to get bigger, faster, stronger, that type of thing. Hoping to put in some good work this weekend and set myself up for the future."