Middle Tennessee State’s Steven Rhodes has finally gotten the chance to live out his dream of a being a collegiate football player. In August, the story broke of the former Marine who was originally ruled ineligible by the NCAA. The NCAA later overruled its decision after a national spotlight shed light on the issue, and the media attacked NCAA president Mark Emmert for yet another reason.
On Aug. 29, Rhodes’ Blue Raiders faced off against the Western Carolina Catamounts with Middle Tennessee securing a 45-24 win at home. Rhodes’s performance earned pretty high praise from his coaches. The 24-year-old, true freshman recorded a half sack at defensive end, but had his biggest influence in special teams. On punt and kickoff coverage, Rhodes tallied four total tackles — two solo, two assisted. His second appearance, in the team’s 40-20 loss to North Carolina, didn’t produce any statistics, though, he still saw considerable time on special teams and a few snaps on the defensive line.
Rhodes’ presences isn’t only being felt on the football field. The ruling that the NCAA made to waive one of its bylaws to allow the former Marine to participate in collegiate athletics is forcing a re-assessment of the rule. In an era in which many critics claim the NCAA is inconsistent and stubborn, this situation allows the NCAA to prove that it can admit wrongdoing and fix a problem, perhaps leading to more self-reflection in the future.