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Daryn Colledge: Joining U.S. Army will be an 'awesome opportunity'

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Why Colledge decided to enlist in the National Guard (2:24)

ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discusses ex-NFL player Daryn Colledge's decision to join the Army National Guard. (2:24)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former NFL offensive lineman Daryn Colledge signed the longest contract of his career Tuesday. But it wasn't with a football team.

Colledge, a former lineman for the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, was sworn into the U.S. Army National Guard for an eight-year commitment Tuesday afternoon. The first six years will be on active duty and the last two will be in the reserves, Colledge told ESPN. But Colledge, 34, said he'll probably transition those two reserve years into another eight years of active duty.

"I'll do what I did in the league: I'll grind my butt off and I'll show that I have a commitment," he said.

Colledge will leave for a 10-week basic training within the next 30 days. Depending on if he makes it through, he'll begin working as 15T, or a helicopter mechanic, for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters based in Boise, Idaho, where Colledge resides.

His goal is to be a Black Hawk crew chief, which Colledge explained is the door gunner and the cable operator for rescue missions. He is a private pilot as well.

"This was the best and fastest way for me to get in the air and serve our country," he said.

While the basic commitment is, as the famous commercial says, one weekend a month and two weeks a year, Colledge said he plans to serve about 180 days a year, whether that's aiding with natural disasters or volunteering for missions.

After consulting with his wife and two daughters, Colledge decided two months ago to enlist. He has spent that time losing weight, dropping from his final NFL weight of 310 pounds to 270, with 30 more to go. He has also gotten his paperwork in order, gone through medical checks and taken standardized tests to ensure he was "competent and smart enough to do the job, and perform at a level that they expect," Colledge said.

He passed his final physical Tuesday and was sworn in later that afternoon.

Going through basic training "is going to be different," Colledge conceded. He'll be working alongside men nearly half his age and compared it to a "new" training camp.

"It's just a little bit longer and a little more serious," he said. "It's going to be an awesome opportunity. It's going to be a challenge to myself. I think basic training to me, it's not combat. It's the opportunity to go out and learn how to be a soldier and challenge yourself mentally and physically and try to get the most out of it. It's just like anything else in the world. You get what you put in, and I get to put everything into it, and I expect to come out of it a changed man."

Colledge said he nearly retired from the Cardinals a little more than two years ago to join the active duty Army.

The birth of his second and youngest daughter, along with a feeling of obligation to the Cardinals and the coaching staff and his belief that the team was headed in the right direction, led Colledge to hold off on enlisting. But with a brother who is an officer in the Army and a family full of military members, Colledge said that serving was "something that's always been on my mind for a long time." Football, however, took priority.

"You play football, you chase the money, you chase the dream, you go up a long time doing that, and then I think you get to a certain point in your life, and you decide the things that are important to you," he said. "For a long time it wasn't about money for me. It became about other things, and I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself."

With the feeling that his family was comfortable enough financially, Colledge retired from the NFL after spending the 2014 season with the Dolphins and moved back to Boise, where he played for Boise State University from 2002-2005.

According to Spotrac, Colledge earned $24.6 million in his career.

He took his wife and two daughters on a four-month trip to Europe following the season, and they evaluated their lives and their futures. It was then that Colledge revisited the possibility of joining the National Guard, and his family put its support behind him enlisting.

Colledge said he felt this was the right time to pursue his dream of joining the Army.

"I get to give the National Guard here in Boise all the time in the world," he said. "I get to give them as much as they need and hopefully some more time than I want, and I think that's a rare opportunity.

"I get to do this because I want to serve and I want to take care of my country, and I want to take care of the residents here in Idaho. This gives me the best opportunity to do that."