Former Navy star running back Kyle Eckel is practicing with the Miami Dolphins after having been involuntarily terminated from the service.
Eckel received an administrative separation from the Navy on Oct. 31, a Navy spokesman confirmed yesterday. In addition, he'll be required to repay about $96,000 in education costs, said Lt. Tommy Crosby of the Navy Office of Information.
"Whenever someone does not fulfill their follow-on service commitment, they must repay their educational expenses on a pro-rated basis," Crosby said. The specific reason for Eckel's termination from the Navy was not disclosed.
Since leaving the Naval Academy, Eckel has been involved in two criminal cases, one as the accused and another as a witness.
In August, he was charged in Anne Arundel County with two counts of assault, one in the first and one in the second degree, and one count of sexual offense in the fourth degree. Those charges were nolle prosequi a month later, meaning that prosecution was not pursued but could be revisited later. Such a disposition is generally considered akin to a dismissal.
"Kyle Eckel has never been convicted of any crime and has no pending criminal charges against him. The case in Anne Arundel County was completely baseless," his Philadelphia-based attorney, Jim Kennedy, said in a statement. The lawyer added that Eckel's separation from the Navy had nothing to do with the Anne Arundel charges.
In another case, Eckel is identified as a witness in a February rape case in which senior Kenneth Ray Morrison, a former football player, is accused of raping a female midshipman. Morrison is also accused of another sexual assault, also involving a female midshipman, in April.
After graduation in May 2005, Eckel was assigned to the Naval Academy, where first he was in the physical education department and then detached to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island, where he helped coach football.
After that, he was assigned to the USS Kearsarge for six months and then to a post in Norfolk, Va., where he was when he was separated from the service.
Eckel, who rushed for 2,906 yards and scored 25 touchdowns for the Mids, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots last year and was able to practice with the NFL team while assigned to the academy prep school in Newport, R.I. After being released by New England, he signed with the Dolphins but was on the reserve/military list and unable to participate in team functions.
In his new status on the exempt/commissioner permission list, he can practice and attend team meetings but cannot play and doesn't count against the 53-player roster. If the Dolphins activate Eckel for games, they would have to make a roster move.