NCAA grants former Marine immediate eligibility

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A former Marine and Middle Tennessee University state freshman was granted immediate eligibility to play football after his story made national news.

Steven Rhodes served the United States for five years, but his dream of playing college football was initially denied because of what he did during that service.

"I thought it would be like an advantage. It didn't turn out that way," he said.

For the last five years, Rhodes has worn the uniform of a United States Marine. During that time, Rhodes joined a recreational football league on base.

"About two years ago my dream of getting into the NFL was reignited, so I just tried to do everything I could to get to that goal," he said.

That determination led him to MTSU. But not long after he put on number 49, his path to a dream was suddenly blocked by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

"Initially they said he couldn't play this year and he would lose two years of eligibility because of those 12 games he played were over the course of two years," said Rick Stockstill, MTSU head football coach.

By NCAA standards, Rhodes' play at the Marine base actually counted as organized competition because there were game officials, team uniforms, and a score was kept.

"I could understand the NCAA's point if he accepted money, if he was on TV and all that kind of stuff. but he's a young man that's served our country," said Stockstill.

The university appealed the NCAA's ruling and got back some of Rhodes' eligibility. 

But after his story made national headlines, the NCAA acted quickly - granting him immediate eligibility so he'll be able to play this season.