It's turned out to be a pretty nice senior season for Jerome Hayes, who has started in four of Penn State's 10 games in 2009 and has recorded 17 tackles.
The Nittany Lion defensive end suffered setbacks the past two seasons, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in 2007 and the ACL in his left knee in 2008.
Given his unfortunate circumstances, Hayes, a fifth-year senior, said he would consider asking the NCAA for a sixth-year of eligibility once the regular season ends on Nov. 21 at Michigan State.
"It's definitely something that I will talk to with my parents and I will talk to Coach Paterno about after the season," Hayes said Wednesday. "But with how we're feeling right now, we just really wanna focus on these next couple of games and hopefully [during] the time period we get before the bowl game, we'll be able to sit down and speak to Coach about that."
Hayes talked about the pros and cons of a possible sixth-year, saying a full year of starting could prove his durability to pro scouts while obviously exposing himself to potential injury.
But with two games remaining, Hayes insisted it's not something he has paid much attention to yet.
"I really haven't thought about it," he said. "The only time I think about it is when I'm asked, [by] the media."
Of course, the question remains if Hayes -- who redshirted in 2005 and missed 17 total games in 2007 and 2008 -- would be granted a sixth year of eligibility.
According to NCAA bylaw 14.2.1, student-athletes have "five calendar years from the beginning of the semester or quarter in which the student-athlete first registered for a minimum full-time program of studies in a collegiate institution." While the NCAA has designed this eligibility as a five-year period, the actual competition time in which a student-athlete can compete is four years.
Along with extraordinary medical problems, per NCAA bylaw 220.127.116.11, student-athletes can also receive their sixth year of eligibility for other circumstances beyond their control such as:
â€¢ Life-threatening or incapacitating injury or illness suffered by a member of the student-athlete's immediate family, which clearly is supported by contemporaneous medical documentation
â€¢ Clearly erroneous academic advice provided to the student-athlete from a specific academic authority from a collegiate institution regarding the academic status of the student-athlete or prospective student-athlete, which directly leads to that individual not being eligible to participate
â€¢ Natural disasters (e.g., earthquake, flood)
â€¢ Extreme financial difficulties as a result of a specific event (e.g., layoff, death in the family) experienced by the student-athlete or by an individual upon whom the student-athlete is legally dependent, which prohibit the student-athlete from participating in intercollegiate athletics.
So if the NCAA were to deny Hayes a sixth year -- should he apply for it -- what would he do next?
"As of right now finish these last two games and get two victories and go to a great bowl game," Hayes said. "As far as school wise, definitely finish up on a high note, keep my GPA high -- I graduated last May -- and then everything else will take care of itself. I'm just really looking forward to these next two games."