Middle Tennessee defensive end Steven Rhodes, center, talks with the school’s president, Dr. Sidney McPhee, right, during NCAA college football practice Aug. 19 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The NCAA says Rhodes has been cleared to play this season.
story by: Adam Sparks, USA TODAY Sports
photo courtesy of: Bradley Lambert / Middle Tennessee State University
Middle Tennessee State walk-on football player and former Marine Steven Rhodes did not quite grasp how public his battle with the NCAA had become.
Rhodes, a 24-year-old freshman who was initially denied eligibility by the NCAA, does not even have cable TV. But he needed no help interpreting the smile across his coach’s face at practice Monday afternoon.
“Coach (Rick Stockstill) was smiling real big. I was ecstatic when he told me. I’m going to play now,” said Rhodes, who was granted his immediate eligibility by an NCAA ruling Monday afternoon.
“This has all been crazy, but I feel like I got a whole new life now. Thank the Lord, I’m going to play football this year.”
The NCAA originally ruled that Rhodes, a Marine sergeant who recently finished his active enlistment, had to forfeit two years of eligibility and take a mandatory redshirt year this season because he participated in a military-only recreational football league at a Marine base in San Diego in 2012.
MTSU won a partial appeal last week, when the NCAA reinstated Rhodes’ two years of eligibility (for a total of four seasons) but upheld his mandatory redshirt year. But Monday, the NCAA granted Rhodes’ immediate eligibility after his plight went public in a big way.
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