BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Episcopal Knights will hit the field this football season without one of its main players. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) ruled because of his age, Clement Mubungirwa, 19, cannot play this year.
The senior running back boarded the charter bus ready to play football on Friday, but this time he was traveling with the team as a spectator.
"It's my team. I've got to support them," Mubungirwa said.
The refugee from Uganda started playing football six years ago when he moved the United States. But according to LHSAA rules, if an athlete turns 19 before Sept. 1 he or she cannot play high school sports. Mubungirwa celebrated his nineteenth birthday in July.
LHSAA Executive Director, Kenny Henderson, released a statement regarding Friday's ruling. It reads, in part, "The rule in question has been in place for many years for the safety and health of all of our athletes. If this exception was allowed, the LHSAA was concerned that more ineligible student athletes would come forward hoping to play."
While his eligibility to play has been up in the air all summer, Mubungirwa never stopped practicing.
"It's been hard. I knew I had to do it. I wouldn't go home and sit out and be lazy. I felt like that so many times, but every time I felt like that I felt guilty," Mubungirwa said.
His coach, Travis Bourgeois, said the LHSAA's ruling is a hit for the entire team.
"This is a kid who's always been the next senior in line and he's grown and matured over the years and has become an excellent player for us. Young kids really look up to him, even kids who don't know him. He's a great motivation for a lot of kids," Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois said, in August, he began making plans for a Knights football team without Mubungirwa. While the running back will be sitting on the Episcopal sidelines this season, football is still in his future.
"It's not going to change anything. I'm still going to look forward to football somewhere," Mubungirwa said.
"One thing is for sure, Clement will not be forgotten," Bourgeois said.