Football players don’t go to West Point thinking they’re on the fast track to a National Football League career. In the last 50 years only two Black Knights have been selected in the NFL Draft.
But sometimes they turn out to be better than they even knew. That’s the case with linebacker Cole Christiansen, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chargers.
“It’s awesome, it really is,” says Christiansen. “Something that none of us thought was going to happen when we went to West Point, at least initially.”
Two other Cadets also signed free agent deals; defensive back Elijay Riley with the Eagles and fullback Connor Slomka with the Jaguars. If they all make the 53-man roster it will more than double the number of Army alums currently in the NFL. All three started getting attention before their junior seasons and at first all three weren’t sure what was going on.
“There were scouts starting to come to practice and I think we were all kind of taken aback by it because we didn’t even know scouts could come to our practices,” says Christiansen. “They started asking us questions and I was like, you know what, this might be something I could pursue.”
New rules allow service academy grads to delay their five-year military commitment and go into a role with their branch’s Reserves so they can immediately pursue a professional sports career.
“I’ll play as long as I can,” says Christiansen. “Hopefully that’s for a very long time. Once that’s over I’ll serve my five years. I’ll pin my bars the day I stop playing in the NFL.”
In the meantime he’s still going to be doing some kind of work for the Army.
“I’m going to do everything I can to use the platform I have now to speak on behalf of the Department of Defense, the Army and our Armed Forces,” says Christiansen.
Cole is a two-time team captain and Engineering Management major. When he pins his bars he’ll be a Field Artillery Officer. That means he’ll help provide heavy support by fire for troops serving in forward positions. Or put another way he gets to use big old howitzers and cannons to make things go BOOM.
“I just really enjoy the big guns,” says Christiansen. “I like being a part of it, being on the gun line, watching them fire, listening to the calls come in.”
The mission statement for the gun line is To Provide Support for the Guys That are Ahead, something that resonates with Cole.
“It’s called King of Battle. I like to think a lot of the operations that happen in the infantry probably can’t happen without the big guns firing first, or at least while it’s happening.”
If the Chargers were looking for a good locker room presence they definitely found the right guy here.
“I want to lead soldiers. I went to West Point to get developed as a leader,” says Christiansen. “I’ll definitely crack the whip when necessary but I think people are more interested in following you when they believe that their best interests are in the front of your mind so I always try to make that a priority, to show those below me that I’m committed to them.”
No matter how long his professional career lasts … be it 10 days or 10 years … Christiansen is going to be happy with his career choice.
“I’ve loved football since I was a young boy but I definitely do love the Army very much now. I’m excited to a part of both teams as I go forward after graduation, football first and then get a chance to go do the work I’ve been training the last four years to do.”
No matter what team he’s on this is a young man you can root for.