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NCAA officially grants Bison linebacker DeLuca another year of eligibility

FARGO -- The NCAA on Wednesday, Dec. 21, approved the medical hardship for North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca, who will get another year of football eligibility and return for his senior season next year.

North Dakota State's Nick DeLuca and quarterback Easton Stick leave the field after their overtime win over Charleston Southern Saturday, August 27, 2016, at the Fargodome.David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State senior linebacker Nick DeLuca warms up before kick off against Charleston Southern on Saturday, August 27, 2016, at the Fargodome. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO - The NCAA on Wednesday, Dec. 21, approved the medical hardship for North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca, who will get another year of football eligibility and return for his senior season next year.

The action was expected since DeLuca had met the general NCAA standards for a hardship. To be eligible for a medical waiver, a player cannot compete in more than 30 percent of the season or three games, whichever is greater. The injury also has to occur in the first half of the season and has to be incapacitating.

"It's a big relief and I'm sure it is for the whole program," said NDSU defensive coordinator Matt Entz. "We played good football this year but Nick is a difference maker. He's a different type of player out there and it will be fun to have him back."

DeLuca was hurt in the season opener against Charleston Southern when he fell on his shoulder wrong while making a tackle. He played against Eastern Washington and the University of Iowa with a brace, but a decision was made after the Hawkeyes game to have season-ending surgery on a torn labrum.

"It was a big decision in September with his future, the NFL, what was at stake here with this injury," Entz said. "It's good to see it's moving as predicted. The NCAA came back with a quick decision. I talked to him today and I know it's a big relief for him."

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His rehabilitation has gone so well, Entz said, that DeLuca almost felt well enough to play in the postseason. He's been medically cleared for weightlifting, with Entz saying DeLuca and head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer had a conversation earlier this week on what DeLuca can do over the semester break.

DeLuca played as a true freshman in 2013 and reached the starting lineup in 2014 when linebacker Travis Beck went down with an injury. He was far and away the team's leading tackler in 2015 and was considered a candidate this season for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the Football Championship Subdivision's best defensive player.

Junior Matt Plank took DeLuca's spot and both will return next season. It will help ease the loss of senior linebackers MJ Stumpf and Pierre Gee-Tucker and Entz said it's possible DeLuca could learn to play an outside linebacker position in spring football and summer workouts.

"We have some different options now," Entz said.

Another benefit, Entz said: DeLuca has two semesters left to graduate and will be guaranteed to leave NDSU with his degree. If he would have played this season, he most likely would have left school after this semester to prepare for pro football at a warm-weather training facility.

"For me personally, having another year with Nick DeLuca is pretty special," Entz said.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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