Football athletes capitalize on extra NCAA eligibility

Lehigh football players Alex Snyder and Nate Norris may have lost a football season due to COVID-19, but that isn’t stopping them from finishing out their Lehigh football careers. Snyder is pursuing a fifth year and Norris a sixth year on the Mountain Hawks football team.

“It was tough, missing out on a year. We only got to play three games (in the spring 2021 season), so that definitely hurt,” Snyder said. “There were adjustments to be made, but I’m thankful to have another year of eligibility. I’m just trying to make the most of that opportunity.”

Last fall, the NCAA Division I committee granted all student-athletes who competed in the 2020-21 season an extra year of eligibility due to a lost year of competition during the pandemic.

Norris, coming off of two injuries during his 2018 and 2019 seasons, was able to pursue a fifth year on the team. The additional year of NCAA eligibility gave him the opportunity to return for a sixth year.

“Getting hurt two years in a row, I remember feeling like all my hard work was for nothing,” Norris said. “I was able to stay positive because of all my teammates that I was so close with, and I continued to grind for my senior year until COVID-19 happened. I kept working, not knowing if we would play.”

Norris said during the 2021 spring season after a hiatus due to COVID-19, he was able to start in all of the games. He said it was rewarding to get the opportunity to be back on the field.

Norris said the team handled adversity well throughout the COVID-19 season and was able to continue working hard to bounce back the following year. During his successful fifth year season, Norris played in all 11 games and started in 10 as a linebacker. He tied the team lead for 69 tackles and had a career high of 13 tackles against the University of Pennsylvania in 2021.

“Thankfully, we ended up playing in the spring of my senior year and I was able to come back for a fifth year where the season went well for me, and I wanted to build off of that with coming back for another season,” Norris said .

Norris is a double major in sociology and anthropology. Next year, Norris said he will be pursuing a masters degree in management.

Snyder also said his experience dealing with the pandemic during the 2020-21 season was a challenge.

“It was tough, we were forced to practice late, sometimes at 10:30 at night. It was a struggle, but we made the most of it,” Snyder said. “I think we did a solid job of dealing with that, and now we’re just trying to get results on the field.”

Snyder is pursuing a marketing degree in the school of business and plans to take advantage of his academic fifth year at Lehigh along with his athletic extension.

“The opportunities I can get coming back for a fifth year is just amazing at Lehigh. I’m entering the technical entrepreneurship program, I’m very excited about that. The love for the teammates, and the family we have, I didn’t want to leave that,” Snyder said.

Tight ends coach Wisley Desire has only been Snyder’s coach for the spring season, but he said can already see why he is a stand-out player.

“He has a good work ethic, a personality that players want to be around and he cares about the success of this team and his teammates,” Wisely said.

Snyder said his favorite memory on the team is when he set a personal record of 128 receiving yards during an in-season game against Fordham in 2019. Snyder was named Second Team All-Patriot League selection for his efforts as a tight end during the spring 2021 season. He also had his first career touchdown reception against Fordham as a senior.

Both teammates are heading into their last season playing for the Mountain Hawks, which will begin on Sept. 2, at Villanova University.

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