TEMPE, Ariz. — The process for rookie offensive lineman Brett Toth, who’s a second lieutenant in the United States Army, to get approval to play for the Arizona Cardinals involved multiple levels of the Department of Defense, an understanding of how the NFL’s waiver system worked and oversight from the JAG Corps, Toth told ESPN on Thursday.
The process worked in Toth’s favor.
Toth received permission on Wednesday from the Defense Department to play for the Cardinals under a new policy that allows student-athletes at the military academies to defer their five-year commitment to the armed forces in favor of pursuing a career in professional sports.
“It’s unique for sure,” Toth told ESPN on Thursday while sitting at his locker. “What they’ve done, they’ve never done before. The Army has been very accommodating for this opportunity, and they just believe in my being able to pursue this, and I’m very grateful and I just acknowledge the difficulties on their end that have been done on my behalf.”
One of the hurdles facing Toth when the Cardinals claimed him off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 1 was his Permanent Change of Station (PCS) in between his stations.
“That started a whole new process where the military believed I was staying in Philadelphia,” Toth said. “Both sides have to understand the complexities on the other hand. So, for the military, it’s understanding how the waiver process works and just why I wasn’t able to sign there, and the football side has to realize how much was going on on the military side just to make this move.”
When Toth signed with the Eagles in mid-August, his contract had to be reviewed by various levels of the Defense Department, reaching the upper echelons, he said. The same review wasn’t necessary when he was claimed by Arizona because they were inheriting the same deal, he said.
The Defense Department was “very professional” about the process, Toth said, but Toth did not anticipate it being so involved. But, since it wasn’t familiar with how the structure of the NFL personnel apparatus works, Toth said the Department of Defense got the JAG Corps involved to make sure all the legal issues were covered, and wrote memorandums of understanding to create a paper trail.
As part of fulfilling his commitment to the Army, Toth will be stationed at Arizona State University’s ROTC, where he’ll help in various ways during their duty hours on his days off. He could do anything from facilitating freshman ROTC classes to helping with logistics behind the scenes, using his experience at basic training to mentor students, and to possibly helping with recruiting.
It’s one part of his commitment that Toth “absolutely” enjoys.
“It keeps you grounded, for sure,” he said. “A lot of people in the game of football they can kind of get carried away and kind of start living a lavish lifestyle. I actually enjoy being able to go back to Temple (University) while I was in Philly, and it just reminds you what you’re doing, what the main priorities are.”
Toth, who finished his career at Army in 2017, spent sixth months in 2018 as a graduate assistant for the Black Knights and 20 weeks completing a basic officer leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks. He tried out for the Eagles during a leave and was offered a three-year contract on Aug. 16. By the time his waiver was approved by the defense department, Toth had 10 days before he played against the New York Jets in the Eagles’ final preseason game. Philadelphia had planned to re-sign Toth to its practice squad until the Cardinals signed him.