Player Spotlight : Mike Rathe

In the wake of recent, unexpected blows to the University of South Carolina football program, many Gamecock faithful find themselves engaging in conversations, debates, and discussions on every minute detail of every incident. The negativity threatens to become overwhelming. Within these conversations, fans struggle to find a ray of hope among the bad press. One such ray of hope is Mike Rathe...

While Mike Rathe's career at USC may not have been the one he dreamed it would be, there has never been one glimmer of negative light shed on, or from, this young man. Never. Mike Rathe has demonstrated every quality desirable in a student-athlete at any level, in any venue, on any campus. Those close to Mike know one of his most consistent statements has always been, "All I want is a chance." And he's proven that he meant it.

In January 2003, Mike transferred to South Carolina from his home in San Diego. He was ranked the #49 prospect in the SuperPrep JUCO Top 100. Mike came in excited to be playing for a Division I school and worked hard to earn his place on the team. In January 2004, he was awarded the team's academic award with an impressive 4.0 fall GPA. He will long be remembered for his 19 yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson during the annual game against the Kentucky Wildcats. With 1:28 left on the clock, Mike and Troy secured the victory and spared the Gamecocks an embarrassing loss. Immediately following that game, Mike's father, Ken Rathe, was very emotional and said, "I'm so proud of him. All he ever wanted was a chance and it looks like tonight, he got it."

January 2005 has the potential to be the last New Year for Mike Rathe as an active Gamecock. In order for him to be eligible this season, he must be granted a sixth year extension by the NCAA. While many compare and contrast Mike's situation with other college athletes, one must remember that eligibility is not based solely on two year sustained injuries. But rather, the NCAA gives consideration for mitigating circumstances that are out of the control of either the player or the University. Injuries are only a portion of what may be deemed eligible.

The NCAA has not "officially" denied Rathe's request for an extension, but rather, has offered a verbal denial pending additional details . Those additional details are being submitted to the NCAA this week. A favorable final decision is hoped for before the begining of spring practice. And while no one is willing to speculate on the ultimate outcome, many are "cautiously optimistic" about the appeal.

In the meantime, Mike has not missed a day or an opportunity to be part of the Gamecock football squad. He continues to work hard and is fully rehabilitated from his Dec 10th shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. It appears that Mike is 100% and ready to go. Mike continues to receive tremendous support from Coach Reeves and Coach Stockstill. Even Coach Skip Holtz, now at ECU, continues to call and check on Mike's progress. Mike has been quoted as saying that Skip was a father figure for him here in South Carolina; clearly the admiration is mutual, as both men have tremendous respect for the talents of the other.

Mike has completed his coursework at USC and is currently completing his internship. He will earn his degree in Sport and Entertainment Management in May of this year. Should the NCAA give a favorable nod to this young man, he will continue his academic career on the graduate level.

Mike would certainly like nothing more than to have that chance he's always dreamed of under the leadership of Coach Steve Spurrier. Whether or not Rathe has the stuff an SEC quarterback is made of remains to be seen. There's only one way to find out. It won't come easy and there's plenty of competition for the slot, but Mike is eager for the opportunity, the chance.

Certainly the support of both the former and current coaching staffs, as well as the USC Athletic Administation, has been very encouraging to this young Gamecock. They have done all they can do in Mike's situation, the decision is completely in the hands of the NCAA. The Rathe family has also been very appreciative of the Gamecock fans during Mike's stay here in Columbia. This would be an excellent time for the faithful to be in prayer for a positive resolution. A prayer offered that might see the NCAA grant this extension.

Regrettably, it is often the bad news that gets the press. And Gamecocks everywhere have gotten a solid dose of it recently. While these things are not uncommon, we absolutely must remember that they are the minority. The vast majority are great kids and great student-athletes. These are the ones we should focus on. These young people that choose a University because they want to be a part of it, they want to contribute to it, they want a chance.

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