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NCAA rule preventing U.S. Marine from playing college football

Helen Comer / The Daily News Journal
Steven Rhodes is a defensive end for the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

Middle Tennessee State football player Steven Rhodes was away from football for five years while serving in the United States Marine Corps.

Now, an NCAA rule could keep him away from football for one additional year.

A weekend feature story by the Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal explains in detail how Rhodes' participation on a military football team while serving in the Marines may force him to redshirt this fall and sit out the season for the Blue Raiders. The NCAA rule in question is bylaw 14.2.3.2.1. It states that student-athletes who do not enroll in college within a year of high school graduation lose a year of eligibility for every academic year they participate on an organized team.

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But this is how Rhodes described "organized:"

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

On Sunday, NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osburn released a statement indicating the matter remains under review:

"The NCAA has provided an initial review of the case and will continue to work with the university. The process is ongoing and a final decision has not yet been made."

Added Rhodes' wife, Adrienne: "Those games were something they did in their spare time on the same base. They were games against different shops -- you know, like the air traffic controllers against the mechanics. It was so disorganized. I couldn't believe that was an issue."

Rhodes, 24, is a 6-3, 240-pound walk-on tight end and defensive end for the Blue Raiders. Coach Rick Stockstill said Rhodes could, at a minimum, help MTSU on special teams this season, if eligible.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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