Former Marine Sgt. Gets to Pursue College Football Dream After NCAA Rule Almost Kills It

(Photo: Screen Grab via ABC News)Former Marine Sgt. Steven Rhodes, 24.

A 24-year-old former Marine Sgt. who served in the military for five years almost had his dream of playing college football crushed when he discovered that an NCAA rule would technically prevent him from playing on Middle Tennessee State University's football team this season.

Former Marine Sgt. Steven Rhodes told ABC News that he was angry when he learned that the NCAA rule designed to discourage high school athletes from skipping college and going straight to the pros would essentially penalize him for his five years of service in the military.

"I was upset with the situation, confused," said Rhodes in an interview with ABC News' "This Week."

According to the rule cited in the ABC report, "college players who fail to enroll within one year of graduation have to give up one year of eligibility for each year they participated in any organized competition."

This was particularly problematic for Rhodes who was told that his time spent playing in a recreational football league while stationed at Marine Air Station in Miramar, San Diego would prevent him from playing as an MTSU Blue Raider this season.

ABC News
Former Marine Sgt. Steven Rhodes gets to play college football

"I'm 24 years old, I don't have that much time. ... A lot of guys [are already] in their third veteran season in the NFL at this age," Rhodes told ABC News.

Rhodes also argued that the closest resemblance the military league had to professional football was the uniforms and score-keeping, everything else he described as "intramural."

"I had no contract. An Uncle Sam contract," Rhodes quipped.

Rhodes story soon drew national attention overtime and prompted Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), to voice his support for Rhodes in a tweet.

"NCAA should allow Steven Rhodes to play - don't penalize him for serving his country," it said.

Rhodes' story began making its way around social media when the president of MTSU, Sidney McPhee, decided it was time to step in.

"I picked up the phone and called a few other folks, and said, 'You really want to take a second hard look at this issue,'" McPhee told ABC News.

A day after Rhodes' story made national news on Aug. 19, the NCAA announced that the former Marine Sgt. would be allowed to play, pointing out that military men and women are exempt from the particular rule and it was simply forgotten.

Last Thursday Rhodes played with MTSU in their first game of the season and won with Rhodes registering a tackle.

"I was determined to finish out my dream," said Rhodes. "I just kept my faith, kept praying and believing and here I am."

"Never give up, never give in, don't listen to anybody's negativity, don't let anybody tell you what you can't do, you are the only person that can control what you can do, so don't limit yourself," he noted.

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