CHARLOTTE (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) — You won’t find Veterans Day sneaking up on Brett Toth. The Carolina Panthers offensive tackle knows when it is and more importantly why it’s celebrated.
“Being from a military family in which every branch of the Military Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army, It’s huge for reflection,” he says.
The 27-year-old Toth is a proud American. Like his father and grandfather, he too served his country. He never went to war but he did go to school at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Looking back, the Charleston, South Carolina, native admits it was a curious place to pursue his football dreams, considering there are only four other active Black Knights in the NFL.
“I said ‘if there is a way I’m going to make it, I said I can make it from anywhere’,” he said.
Toth relished the challenge. And from the beginning of his time in school, he was loaded with obstacles. Like coaches who wanted him to prioritize football while his Army Chain of Command wanted him to do just the opposite.
“It is a very unique environment at West Point for sure,” he remembered. “With both sides having their own opinion of what comes first. It’s culture building at the end of it.”
That’s certainly one way of describing it. Life-changing would be another. Upon graduating in 2018, Toth first had to put football aside and complete his service requirements. For the good of the country, the game could wait.
“I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I was an engineer officer by trade,” he says. “I did not believe football was a reason for me to get out of my military service. It is very important to know your role and do your job.”
One year later, his career in the NFL would finally begin. Granted there have been some bumps along the way but Toth wouldn’t change a thing. Besides, he says the time served had him ready for everything. Well, almost everything.
“I don’t think I was every prepared for a person that weighed 270 pounds running a 4-4, as a defensive end, but it creates adversity for you that you have to overcome for sure.”
Toth started as an Eagle but now is a proud Panther. He’s learned his employer can change but one thing that can’t is his allegiance to the flag.
“I think you just learn a lot when you dedicate yourself to serving a higher purpose.”
It’s something any veteran who understands the importance of the holiday would tell you. Against the odds, this one just happens to play football too.