MTSU officials celebrate with Steven Rhodes (center) on Aug. 19, 2013, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., after learning the NCAA would allow him to play for the Blue Raider football team. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics/B. Lambert)
For a Blue Raider football player who is not in the team's media guide, freshman Steven Rhodes gained a lot of national media attention in the last couple of days for his work off the field.
After serving in the U.S. Marines for five years, Rhodes approached MTSU Athletics about playing on the Blue Raider football team this season. At first, the NCAA said no because he played in a recreational league during his time in the military.
However, the NCAA changed its mind Monday, following an immense public outcry over the decision, and will allow him to suit up for the Blue Raiders this season.
“As part of its continued review of Steven Rhodes' eligibility, the NCAA staff determined he may play immediately,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in a statement released Monday afternoon.
“Additionally, he will maintain all four years of his eligibility," he said. "As part of the ongoing review of the 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.”
Rhodes was notified of the NCAA's decision during practice by MTSU Director of Athletics Chris Massaro and President Sidney McPhee.
“They told me I was granted my eligibility,” Rhodes said after practice. “I had to go give them a hug and thank them. Also, I thanked the Lord. It is nothing but a blessing.”
The Blue Raiders open the 2013 season Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Western Carolina.