Shortly after the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars wrapped up their first joint practice of the week on Monday, a session that went for about two hours, New England long snapper Joe Cardona swapped his Patriots uniform for a different uniform: his Naval officer service uniform.
Cardona, a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, has played in every game the last two seasons, but as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he’s also a Navy Ensign and is now a member of the Naval Reserves. As such, Cardona is able to swear in others who are enlisting in his branch.
That’s what happened on Monday, when Cardona performed the re-enlistment for two Navy members he has worked with at the Naval Preparatory Academy in Newport, Rhode Island.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s late father, Steve, was a teacher and football team scout at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland for decades, and Belichick is quick to cite his admiration for the men and women of the Navy and all branches of the military. Not surprisingly, Belichick was an interested observer and the first to congratulate the re-enlisted officers after Cardona finished.
But he wasn’t the only one: dozens of members of both the Patriots and Jaguars watched Cardona swear in the pair, and Cardona was proud to make it such a special ceremony for the officers.
“They approached me personally and asked if I would do it for them. When someone comes out of their way and asks you to do their re-enlistment, they’re saying they want you to be part of their service story and have an important part [of their career],” Cardona told reporters. “The fact they deem me willing or deserving, that is something I take a lot of pride in. They’re signing up for a few more years of service, and when they asked me to perform the re-enlistment, I jumped at the opportunity.”
When Cardona told members of the Patriots organization that he’d been asked to do the re-enlistments, the team wanted to help too, to make it special for the man and woman who were signing up again.
As a rookie, Cardona juggled his obligations as a member of the Patriots with his obligations to the military; that meant frequently making drives from Foxborough, Massachusetts, to Newport, a 130-mile round trip, to work at the Prep Academy as a means of fulfilling his Navy obligation. Cardona has since become a reservist.