Sam Maresh has one more hurdle to clear in his quest to play Division I football. Maresh, the highly-recruited linebacker from Champlin Park High School who committed to the University of Minnesota in 2007, has left the school because of academic issues.
He will take classes at Anoka-Ramsey Junior College this summer, then attend a junior college this fall.
According to Sam's father, Bill Maresh, the hope is a return to Division I football after his eligibility is restored, after either one or two years at the JC level.
"That will be up to him," Bill Maresh said. "He needs to prove he can be a good student. He could come back to (Minnesota). They've talked to him about that, left the door open."
Sam Maresh was out of town Saturday and unavailable for comment. Bill Maresh said his son would begin classes at Anoka-Ramsey on Tuesday and that a decision on a junior college would come soon as well.
It's another setback for someone who has already overcome many. Maresh had heart surgery to correct a congenital defect in June of 2008, a process that kept him out of football for that season. He enrolled for the spring semester in 2009 as a "grayshirt,'' meaning he was attending school at his own expense so as not to use up any eligibility, but wasn't yet able to practice with the team.
Still, he had to overcome a calf problem before taking part in his first practice during spring ball in 2009. Maresh was a redshirt last season, so he still has four years of eligibility.
Maresh has been in the spotlight for years as he went from a highly-regarded recruit to a young man overcoming heart surgery.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster selected Maresh to be the flag-bearer for the team as it entered the field for the first time at TCF Bank Stadium last fall. But he was also in the news this spring thanks to two citations for underage drinking. Bill Maresh said the alcohol issue is being addressed with counseling.
Looking back, he sees a young man who was dealing with a lot of pressures.
The heart surgery was just the start of it. Maresh then found himself attending the University of Minnesota but not being able to practice with the team, while at the same time being in the public eye. That plus a lack of structure that went with being a grayshirt didn't help.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster said the door will remain open for Maresh to return to the team.
"Sam has some personal issues that have led to a negative impact on his academics," Brewster said. "And, through getting the proper help he needs, we'll be excited about him returning to the U and playing football."
Playing competitive football is something Maresh hasn't done in nearly three years.
"The last few weeks he has seemed relieved,'' Bill Maresh said. "Sometimes you look at things and hindsight is always perfect. Would this have happened without the heart surgery? He was a high-profile Minnesota guy. He grayshirted. Now he goes to school for a semester, but he has no responsibilities with the team. ... I think he started doing some things he shouldn't have been doing, started making the wrong choices."
Ultimately, Maresh's schoolwork suffered.
"He knows everything that has happened is because of the choices he made," Bill Maresh. "He knows he did this to himself. But, like with most things, once you accept that responsibility you start making improvements."
Bill Maresh said the family had no problem with the Gophers and said Brewster has been supportive of Sam throughout.
"We have no issues with the U,'' he said. "Coach Brewster loves Sammy. ... Sam made some choices that got him in some trouble. He's short some credits and he has to get his G.P.A. up. The path for him is to go to a JC. Then the doors are open again to either go back to the U or to go to someplace else. He is healthy, he is strong. Now it's a matter of getting his grades where they need to be. "