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NASA recruits NFL football players for space-y internships (video)

Ten NFL football players are officially part of the NASA family after completing internships at the space agency. 

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Joshua Dobbs and New York Giants players Eric Smith, an offensive lineman, and Chris Peace, a linebacker, along with seven other NFL players recently reached for the stars when they decided to head to NASA as part of the NFL Players Association externship program.

In February, the players spent some time at a variety of NASA facilities. Smith and Peace spent three days at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston while Dobbs spent close to three weeks at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida working on the agency's Exploration Ground Systems Program, which supports the assembly and transport of rockets. With a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Tennessee, Dobbs had a serious leg up at the space agency. 

Related: NASA: 60 Years of Space Exploration

Dobbs is not only an aerospace engineer, professional football player and recent NASA intern, but he's also a huge supporter of human spaceflight activities. He recently attended SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch at Kennedy. 

On Twitter, he wrote: "Mission Success! Today, Americans return to space from FL's Space Coast for 1st time in 9 yrs. What a tremendous honor to have been here. A cohesive team can accomplish anything! Congrats to @nasa, @spacex, @nasakennedy & all involved in today's historical mission. Godspeed!"

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who also played with the NFL, offered up some words of encouragement for Dobbs, also on Twitter. Melvin wrote: "NFL brother and Aero Eng @joshdobbs hope to see u on @SpaceX #crewdragon one day. Kids work hard & believe in yourself. Parents have the discussion to keep them safe. Talent’s found in every zip code and must be nurtured/protected. People in blue Protect and Serve Godspeed." 

Peace is also inspired by space, and was excited at the chance to explore those interests with this program. "When I was a kid, I was always kind of interested in the stars," Peace told ESPN. "Had a telescope, planets and all that stuff. Real big fan of NASA. So why not, given the opportunity? … It was a chance to do something different."

"When I got there to Houston in NASA, I was completely caught off guard," Peace added. "I thought we were going to go down there and learn about stars and planets. And we saw a little bit about it. But for the most part, it was kind of like a business internship. When we were down there, we learned about all their technology and worked with their technology side."

The NFL Players Association is "the union for professional football players in the National Football League," according to the program's website. These externships allow players to explore careers outside of the NFL for when they retire from playing football. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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