Ex-Marine's Pick-Up Football Nearly Derails NCAA Dream

Steven Rhodes challenged rule that would have red-shirted him for a year.

August 19, 2013, 3:56 PM

Aug. 19, 2013— -- The NCAA granted a college-bound ex-Marine a waiver today after he appealed a rule that would have kept him sidelined for his first season -- all because he played in a recreational football league while he was enlisted.

Steven Rhodes, 24, who was discharged this summer after five years of active duty, is now eligible to play all four years at Middle Tennessee State University, according to an NCAA statement.

Furthermore, the NCAA said its "members will examine the organized competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service."

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The strapping ex-Marine accepted a walk-on opportunity with the Middle Tennessee State University's Blue Raiders this fall as a tight end and defensive prospect. However, the NCAA ordered him to red shirt for one year because of the recreational games he played while enlisted.

"Man, it was like intramurals for us. There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old," Rhodes told the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. "The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games."

Rhodes told the newspaper he even sent video of his games to coaches, which helped the 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete land the walk-on opportunity.

Chris Massaro, the athletic director at Middle Tennessee State University, tweeted that he and Dr. Sidney McPhee, the university's president, delivered the news to Rhodes at practice this afternoon.

"He was a little bit emotional," Rhodes tweeted. "It is fun to see dreams come true."