Rhodes checking out options

Dawgman.com caught up today with Nathan Rhodes, a 6-7, 310-pound lineman from Bakersfield, California, and Nathan was eager to share the latest news regarding his spinal condition that has prevented him from playing football this season at the University of Washington. He's got some options ahead of him, and those options will determine just how quickly he'll make it back to Montlake.

"It's been messed up for a while, but mostly it was a birth defect that just got worse and worse," Rhodes said today. Paul Arnold was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis, or a degenerative narrowing of the spinal canal a couple of years ago, and Rhodes' condition is similar, but with a much different side effect. "I have Spinal Stenosis," he said. With Spinal Stenosis, the canal narrows and pinches the spinal cord and nerves. The result can be lower back pain as well as pain in the legs. Stenosis may pinch the nerves that control muscle power and sensation in the legs.

It's that type of sensation in the legs that first alerted Husky trainers to a potential back problem for Rhodes during freshman camp this fall. "My feet are tingly all the time," Rhodes said. "I can go out running and my legs can go totally numb, but when I go to bed all the feeling comes back because I'm off my feet. But in the morning my feet will hurt because I probably pushed it more than I should. The more active I am the worse it seems to get."

Because of the pre-existing nature of the condition, Nathan had no other choice than to leave school and go back to his grandparents house in Bakersfield. "Under Washington's insurance they were allowed to diagnose me," he said. "But since it was a pre-existing condition, I couldn't be treated there. So I went back home, where I'm covered under my grandparents' insurance."

Since his arrival in Bakersfield, Rhodes has undertaken a battery of tests. "I want to be exactly sure what's going on before I do any surgery," he said. "And the doctors want to be sure too. I've done neve tests, MRI's, CT scans and I'm going to do a mylogram too. And I'm going down to Los Angeles to get a second opinion."

Nathan is making sure the Washington trainers are kept abreast of any news that happens. "At Washington I was able to talk to a back specialist and I've talked to the trainers. As soon as I'm done with my full diagnosis I'll tell them what's going on and I'll tell them about the second opinion too when that happens."

Rhodes did not enroll at the University of Washington, but expects to be up there as soon as possible, regardless of the outcome. "Rehab isn't that bad," he said. "I'm only in the hospital overnight. But a lot will depend on how much sensation I get back in my legs. They've told me that sensation could come back in two weeks or it might take six months. Or it may never come back again. Then it's my decision as to what I want to do."

And in talking to Nathan, there's no question as to what he wants to do. "I want to play football," he said. "I know that it might end up being a roll of the dice, but we'll see what happens. But even in the worst-case, if I can't play again the coaches have said that my scholarship is good. I will be a part of the football program. If that means I'm a trainer, student coach or a ballboy...OK. I just want to be around the game."

But that's not even in his mind right now. What Rhodes is doing is looking to the new year, and sees right now as his greyshirt year. "I want to get up there in January," he said. "But I'm not totally sure what I'm allowed to do. I've been told that enrolling then is like enrolling if you weren't academically eligible in the fall. You can't really be a full part of the team until August, but from what I know once August comes around I can red-shirt. Then I'll be good to go."

Rhodes has been keeping in touch with coaches and players in the program. "Coach Heater calls a bunch," he said. "I also talk to my roomates, Clay Walker, Scott Ballew and Stanley Daniels."

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