Eric Kettani played college football at Navy and has spent much of his NFL career on the practice squad, starting with the Patriots in 2009. He was ordered into active duty in 2011 and served an overseas deployment before landing on the Redskins practice squad in September. Service member and professional athlete are pretty impressive titles on their own, but the Renaissance man is also an accomplished artist.
Kettani has been creating mixed-media art since college. His paintings are done on wood panels and finished with epoxy resin, often with 3D elements included in the 4-by-4 foot pieces.
"In college, I cut my cleat in half and attached it to a piece I was working on," Kettani explained. "I've used guitars and footballs, too."
He also designs T-shirts, and teammate Barry Cofield recently purchased some from his "State Roots" line for the entire defensive line. Robert Griffin III also has one, and Kettani himself gifted some to his fellow running backs.
Kettani lives with teammate Nick Sundberg, and recently designed two pieces to flank Sundberg's fish tank.
"He did one, and it was really cool," said Sundberg. "I looked at it and said it needed a friend, so he made another one. They look really awesome with the tank."
The accomplished artist also has a fan in Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who was given one of his original paintings while Kettani was with New England. The inspiration for it was the missed field goal by the Baltimore Ravens' Billy Cundiff that sent the Patriots to last year's Super Bowl.
"I actually made a painting from that kick that the Ravens kicker missed," Kettani told me. "It's called ‘Wide Left,' and there's a football in the painting. I decided when I was there to give it to him. He's was like, ‘This is awesome, I want it in my office.' So he hung it up."
The Patriots documented the gifting in a video on the team Web site. For Kraft, the painting represents more than just a missed field goal. Kraft lost his beloved wife, Myra, to cancer before the 2011-2012 season started, and the team had dedicated that season to her.
"When he missed that kick, the whole building felt like it was Myra blowing the kick left," Kraft told me in a telephone conversation. "This painting is a way for me to hold on to her memory. It really is special to me."
Kraft told me that the painting is still in his office, visible to anyone who walks in the door.
"I was just so overwhelmed," he said. "It meant so much to me that while he was on reserve, he found the time to create it. To be honest, seeing it there serves as a memory of a special season."
Chris Cooley and Kettani have talked about teaming up to do a show at Cooley's gallery for charity in the offseason, but for now potential buyers can see his work at EricKettani.com.