State deems future soldier unfit for football after basic training

Cameron Smith

In a shocking decision, the Illinois High School Association board of directors has refused to issue a waiver to a high school football player seeking to play in his school's first game who missed the start of preseason training while away on Army basic training in Georgia.

Paxton Buckley Loda running back and linebacker Eddie Nuss

According to the Paxton Record's Cody Westerlund, Paxton-Buckley-Loda star running back and linebacker Eddie Nuss, who is a rising senior at the school, has been forced to miss nearly all of PDL's preseason training because he is still in the midst of Army basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. He won't return until August 19, which is only one week before the school's football season opener.

That seven day preparatory period falls short of the 12 days of practice that the IHSA requires all student athletes to go through before participating in a varsity football contest. Knowing that Nuss' practice time could be an issue, the family had a lawyer draw up a signed liability waiver that would have cleared the IHSA and all affiliated groups from any responsibility if Nuss was hurt in the season's opening game, but the IHSA board rejected the waiver citing, "concern for the person's well-being."

Paxton Buckley Loda running back and linebacker Eddie Nuss in his army fatigues

"There's this overriding safety issue," IHSA executive director Marty Hickman told the Record. "Our sports medicine committee continues to feel that being in shape and being in football shape are two different things. We've had this issue a number of times. It's been brought to the board's attention, and they've consistently said that they're not interested in modifying this policy.

"Maybe something more from the person [could offer further protection for the IHSA]. But really at the end of the day, it's a combination of that and concern for safety that led the board to believe our currently policy should be enforced."

Not surprisingly, Nuss' father thinks both the IHSA's final ruling -- and the reasons behind it -- shouldn't apply to his son, who is in the midst of intense physical training.

"Four days a week, [Eddie Nuss] runs five miles with his gear and pack on," Pat Nuss, Eddie's father, told the Record. "That's an  extra 20-30 pounds in 100-plus degrees. He'll be in better shape than any kid on the football field when he's out of basic training."

That day will come soon, though there is little chance for the younger Nuss to compete on the opening weekend barring a dramatic turn of events, or a court injunction against the IHSA. That second option remains a possibility, and is one that the family may take advantage of, though Nuss' father told the Record that he can't afford to pay thousands of dollars in prospective legal fees.

The drive for additional review of the issue has even been pushed by the local state senator for Paxton, Shane Culta, who brought the issue to the IHSA board and expressed frustration with the sense of hypocrisy he drew from board's final decision.

In the meantime, the returning two-way starter -- Nuss was a star running back and linebacker in 2010 for PBL -- will continue training for his military future, a path in which he will continue to follow in his father's footsteps; the elder Nuss was also a high school football player and is now a military veteran.

"I'm disappointed in them," Nuss' father, Pat, said of the IHSA. "It's not like he's on vacation. He's not running around doing something illegal. He's doing something good for the country."

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