Sgt. Steven Rhodes will no longer have to forfeit two years of eligibility and redshirt his first year to play football at Middle Tennessee State after the NCAA approved his appeal Aug. 19.
The 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran was initially told that his participation in a military-based intramural league in the Marine Corps in 2012 would result in a loss of two years of NCAA eligibility. After appealing the NCAA, Rhodes won and the two-year eligibility loss was removed.
The penalty of having to redshirt his first season remained until the NCAA released a statement on Monday.
“As a part of its continued review of Steven Rhodes’ eligibility, NCAA staff determined he may play immediately. Additionally, he will maintain all four years of his eligibility,” Kevin Lennon, vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in the statement.
Rhodes will be able to play immediately for the Blue Raiders and will likely start at defensive end for the school’s season opener against Western Carolina Aug. 29. He has also lined up at tight end on offense.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound former Marine made headlines after multiple news platforms released his story. Social media site users further carried the story after hashtags like #LetRhodesPlay began to trend on Twitter and other petitions began appearing around the Internet.
Rhodes has not played football since his 2006 when he was a senior for Antioch High School, but his size and overall athleticism should translate to the field.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles will get a chance to see what the Marine is capable of on the gridiron as the Golden Eagles will host MTSU Nov. 30 at The Rock.
Rhodes was an air traffic controller as a Marine and will study in the aerospace program while playing football for the Blue Raiders.
“As a part of the ongoing review of NCAA rules, our members will examine the organized competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service…we thank Steven for his service to our country and wish him the best as he begins college,” Lennon said.