Air Force football star Jalen Robinette's graduation placed on hold
By BRENT BRIGGEMAN | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: May 24, 2017
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Football standout Jalen Robinette did not graduate with his Air Force class Wednesday.
The academy released a statement, saying his graduation and commission were on hold for reasons unrelated to his professional football pursuits or any criminal wrongdoing.
Robinette was one of nine seniors who were removed from the graduation lineup for a variety of reasons, the academy told The Gazette.
“Cadet Robinette was removed from the graduation lineup after academy leadership became aware of information that called into question cadet Robinette’s eligibility/qualification to graduation and commission,” the statement read. “Cadet Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be placed on hold while we further evaluate.”
Air Force public affairs told The Gazette there would be no further comment and it would not accept questions.
Messages left with Robinette were not immediately returned.
The Denver Post first reported that Robinette did not graduate.
“Graduation is the No. 1 objective,” Robinette said in his last full interview with The Gazette in early April.
Since then, many circumstances have changed. The Department of Defense reversed a policy that would have allowed Robinette – expected to be picked in the middle rounds of the NFL draft – to pursue professional football immediately. Instead, he must serve at least two years on active duty before being released to reserves.
He spent time in rookie minicamps with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
Robinette was expected remain at the Air Force Academy as a graduate assistant after receiving his commission.
Citing privacy policies, the academy said it could not discuss the circumstances of the nine cadets who did not graduate. A football player said the others from this class who have garnered NFL attention, including Sam Byers, Jacob Onyechi, Weston Steelhammer and Ryan Watson, each participated in Wednesday's ceremony.
"Yes sir," Steelhammer said when reached for confirmation that he graduated. "A dream come true."
It isn't uncommon for cadets to miss graduation at the last minute. The most common cause is failing a final test.
Cadets who don't make the grade are often offered summer school and a late graduation, complete with a small-scale version of Wednesday's big ceremony.
Robinette has not offered comment to The Gazette since a brief phone call during the draft.
Robinette spent much of this past semester preparing for the possibility of an NFL career.
He participated in the East-West Shrine Game in Florida in January, and the next week became the first Air Force player to appear in the Senior Bowl in Alabama.
He accepted an invitation to the NFL Combine in early March, and spent many afternoons and evenings driving to Denver to work out at Landow Performance along with other draft hopefuls like Christian McCaffrey.
On May 2, Robinette was in the front row as the Air Force football team was honored by President Trump in a ceremony at the White House for winning the Commander-in-Chief's trophy with victories over Army and Navy.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Bexley, Ohio, was easily the program's most prolific receiver in the past 40 years. He left as Air Force’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,697) and second in catches (120) and touchdown catches (18). He was voted second-team all-Mountain West as a senior despite statistics that didn't justify it simply because opposing coaches and media understood his talent and difficulty he brought for other teams even if it was sometimes masked by a run-first offense.
Robinette majored in management at Air Force.
That Robinette didn't graduate seemed to come as a surprise to many in the athletic department and within the football team.
Some of his teammates joked that Robinette had found a loophole to the NFL by not graduating. But such a plan would not be so simple.
Air Force spokesman Meade Warthen said there is no blanket policy for cadets who fail to eventually meet graduation requirements.
“Each case is different and handled on an individual basis,” he said.
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