Off the Gridiron: Kentucky players taking advantage of extra year of eligibility

Local Sports

(WEHT) – The title of fifth-year senior has traditionally been reserved for college athletes, but that’s taken on a whole new meaning this year in Kentucky. 

High school players across the Bluegrass have taken advantage of a unique law. Kentucky Senate Bill 128 allows students K-12 to repeat last year’s grade level because of the impacts of COVID-19.

The Supplemental School Year Program will give Kentucky students a do-over in the classroom and on the gridiron.

At Apollo High School, three players took advantage of the extra year of eligibility.

“I think it’s a good bill,” said Apollo head coach John Edge. “I think a lot of kids will take advantage of it, and I think other kids just moved on. Life’s all about making choices. It was a good bill.”

For Kentucky seniors who battled a year of virtual classes, a condensed football season and limited fan attendance, it was too good to pass up. 

“I was given the opportunity to have this other year, and I figured given the opportunity, I had to take it,” said Apollo senior tight end John Lynn.

But every athlete has their own reasons for returning. For Lynn, the senate bill will allow him to take college classes at Owensboro Community and Technical College. 

“I’ll graduate as a certified electrician, depending on how circuits two goes. I figured graduating high school with a certification like that was a pretty good opportunity.”

For other players, an extra year of football means another chance to show colleges they belong at the next level. That’s the case for Iverson King, who is one of four players on Union County who will return for a fifth year. 

“I didn’t have no offers last year, and I wanted to get better at my game so I can get to the next level,” King said. “I already did four years of it, so what’s it going to hurt to do one more.”

However, not every school district or head coach is sold on the extra year. Daviess County head coach Matt Brannon said several of his players considered returning or reclassifying, but didn’t think it was in their best interest.

“I don’t know that it was the most beneficial thing in terms of high school athletics,” Brannon said. “We already have a log jam of college players that are reclassifying and transferring. I can understand if a player or a student needed if for academic purposes, which I think is what the law was designed for, but I do think there’s some athletic advantages to that.”

For better or worse, the fifth-year seniors will return to the locker room for one more season, where teammates will welcome them back with open arms. 

“It is weird,” said Apollo junior quarterback Christian Combs. “I didn’t expect to be playing with them again. My friends, I thought they were going to leave and go off to college and do their thing, and they get to come back and play another year of football with me.”

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