Last year, we reported on long snapper Joe Cardona, who played in Super Bowl 53 with the Patriots while serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve. This year, there’s another service member on his way to the big game. CPT Ben Garland is headed to the Super Bowl for the second time in his six-year NFL career.
Garland began his football career with the Air Force Falcons from 2006 to 2009 as a defensive lineman. In those three years, he started 34 of 39 games, totaling 115 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks.
Though he went undrafted in 2010, Garland was picked up by the Denver Broncos and placed on a military list so he could finish out his two-year active duty contract with the Air Force. He served at Scott Air Force Base as a second lieutenant until 2012.
The Broncos ended up officially releasing Garland in 2015, and he went to the Falcons for a short period. During his tenure in Atlanta, Garland played mostly as a defensive tackle; he logged his first career safety against Seattle QB Russell Wilson, played in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots (and lost in OT), and then switched to offensive guard during all 16 games of the 2017 season.
He signed on with the 49ers in April 2019, and he’s currently slotted at center — taking snaps in nine games and starting three of them after a late-season injury to Weston Richburg.
After his time was up in active duty, Garland joined the Colorado Air National Guard at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado. He now serves as a Public Affairs Officer with the 140th Wing. He fulfills his military duties in the NFL offseason.
Ben Garland and the Military
Ben Garland has a long family history of service. In fact, it stretches all the way back to the War of 1812. Col. John Garland served for an amazing 50 years in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
Garland’s great grandfather also served; flying missions in World War II. His grandfather, Hal Garland, was a full-bird colonel in the Air Force, and his uncle, Steven Garland, just recently retired as a brigadier general.
In short, it’s no wonder that Garland took it upon himself to serve his country.
“My grandfather always told me he would be proud of me no matter what I did,” Garland told Comcast Sports in November. “He said, ‘Just always work hard and do your best.’ And I always thought my best and reaching my potential would be following in his footsteps, going the military route.”
Balancing his football career with his military career doesn’t seem too hard for Garland. He claims that he loves football for the same reason he loves the Air Force: “You take a diverse group of people from every walk of life, and you have to become the best in the world. You work together.”
Garland plans to serve with the Air National Guard “as long as they want me and I want them.”
Super Bowl 54: An Overview
As the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs prepare to face off in the biggest football game of the year, no one can say that they don’t deserve it.
Since the Chiefs drafted star quarterback Patrick Maholmes in the first round of the 2017 draft, they’ve been steadily building momentum. In this season alone, they showed their mettle by handing a stinging defeat to Bill Belichick’s Patriots, running over the Texans 51-31 in the Divisional Round, and taking the AFC crown by beating the Titans — how about that 60-yard Watkins TD?
The 49ers, on the other hand, were a bit of an underdog going into the 2019 season. They’d won only four games the year before, and beating out the Rams in the contentious NFC West was a tough ask. But they rose to the occasion, serving L’s to both the Rams and Seahawks before marching through the Vikings and Packers for the NFC Championship with seemingly little trouble.
Overall, the Chiefs hold an impressive 14-4 record, and the 49ers are slightly better at 15-3.
Key players to watch include Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, explosive safety Tryann Mathieu, and receiver Tyreek Hill. For the 49ers, it’s the controversial cornerback Richard Sherman, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and defensive end Nick Bosa.
And, of course, there’s center Ben Garland — whose service goes far beyond the football field.