Jake Reardon will play his final football game for Carleton College on Saturday afternnon at venerable Laird Stadium in Northfield. It's never a cakewalk to mix football and studies at Carleton, not considering the Knights' usual underdog role in the MIAC and a student population of brainiacs competing for academic honors.

Reardon has faced more than the usual obstacles on the football side of things.

He came to Carleton from Lakeville North in the fall of 2009. He had surgery to repair a torn hip flexor and did not play as a freshman. He tore the flexor in the other hip in 2010 and again underwent surgery that caused him to miss the season.

Jake received a recommendation from a doctor that his hips would be far better off if he gave up the game. He balked at that suggestion. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound offensive lineman stuck to the idea that he was going to be a college football player.

As a junior in 2011, it appeared as if Reardon had a chance to get playing time on the offensive line.

Check this out: Before that could happen, he came down with E. coli bacteria during two-a-day practices. He was sidelined for three weeks before returning to practice.

At mid-season of his third year at Carleton, he made it into a game for the first time. It was only for two plays, but it appeared Reardon would get more duty during the second half of the schedule.

And then the next week in practice, he severely dislocated a shoulder and didn't play for the rest of the season.

Finally, in the fall of 2012, Reardon made it into the lineup. He started at right tackle. It was not a good autumn for the Knights, as they went 3-7 overall and 1-7 in the MIAC, with the lone victory coming against hapless Hamline.

One of Carleton's best efforts was a 27-20 loss to St. Olaf, the crosstown rival in Northfield. It was the third straight loss to the Oles in the game for "The Goat.''

At season's end, Jake decided he wanted to play another year. At any other MIAC football school, getting a fifth season for a player who had missed three years with injuries would not have been a major issue.

This was Carleton, where you don't beef up a football team with transfers, and you don't see players getting a fifth season routinely. In the 2012-13 academic year, there were a total of seven transfers admitted to Carleton, and none an athlete. And at Carleton, the young scholars are expected to graduate in four years, and then go off to make proud the school and the parents who had written those large checks.

Reardon petitioned the school administraton for a fifth season. The returning football players elected Jake as one of the four captains for 2013 -- based on the hope he would be granted that extra season.

Jake got the waiver, although with the stipulation that he would forego the 2013 "spring term'' in favor of an extra fall term. Thus, he would get his degree (this December) by taking classes in the same 12 terms as other Carleton students.

Reardon has been at center for the Knights this season. They are 4-5 overall and 2-5 in the MIAC entering Saturday's finale. Most importantly, it has been a season in which they ended a three-year losing streak to St. Olaf with a 23-13 victory on Oct. 26.

The captains and their teammates carried the Goat trophy through downtown Northfield in celebration.

That had to make the hip surgeries, the dislocated shoulder, and the E. coli bacteria, and the doctor's recommendation to quit ... that had to make surviving all of it worthwhile for Jake Reardon.

In fact, his commitment to football is such that Reardon hopes to continue with it as a coach.

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