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Steven Rhodes, former Marine Corps sergeant and an Antioch, Tenn., native, poses for a photo at Middle Tennessee State University, Tenn., Aug. 2. Now, he plays defensive end and tight end for the MTSU team. (Photo: Helen Comer, USA TODAY Sports)

Photo by Helen Comer

Taking the gridiron: one Marine goes for his dream

23 Aug 2013 | Lance Cpl. Raquel Barraza 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Star high school football player Steven Rhodes dreamed of playing in the National Football League, but in his senior year all seemed lost when a shoulder injury kept him out of the game his last season.

Now, the former Marine Corps sergeant and an Antioch, Tenn., native, has hope that his dream can still come true.

After high school, Rhodes decided not to go to college because of financial issues. Instead, he joined the Corps.

“I needed a change in life,” he said. “I was tired of what I was doing and going nowhere.”

It wasn’t until two years after he joined that his love of football and his dream to be in the NFL was rekindled.

“It was when I was stationed at [Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.] and it felt like God had reopened a chapter in my life and gave me another chance,” said Rhodes. “I started working out and pushing for my goal again.”

Rhodes was moved to MCAS Miramar, Calif., in August of 2011.When the next season started for the Miramar Falcons in 2012, he was eager to play.

In his only season with the team, he helped them reach second place in the Camp Pendleton Football League Championships. Even though he only played one season, coaches saw the potential he displayed and helped to make sure he reached his goal.  

The former head coach of the Falcons, helped Rhodes film his games so he could send them to colleges, explained Rhodes.

Teammates could also see the drive he had in football as well.

“He was so dedicated to the team,” said Sgt. Herman Dillard, former quarterback of the Falcons and a St. Louis native. “He would help to make sure people come to practice and he was such a great leader.”

With the film from the games, Rhodes was recruited by Middle Tennessee State University, the school he had planned on attending before sustaining his shoulder injury.

Although the school accepted Rhodes, The National Collegiate Athletic Association initially ruled he had to give up two years of eligibility because he played in a recreational football league.

“I was shocked,” said Dillard “He worked so hard to get there just for them not to let him play.”

The ruling didn’t stand and the NCAA granted him eligibility for the team.

Now, he plays defensive end and tight end for the team and is on his way to making his dream come true.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw him playing on television one day,” said Dillard.

Through all his adversity, Rhodes never lost sight of what he really wanted. 

 “Never give up on your dreams’ is what I would tell anyone who thinks they can’t do it,” said Rhodes. “I had plenty of people laugh in my face.” 
Now, using the veteran’s educational benefits program, Rhodes is attending college. He thanks all who have supported him in his journey and hope they continue to support him as he strives to still play in the NFL.