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300-Pound Youth Player Barred From Pee Wee Football

A 12-year-old boy in Mesquite, Texas, has been prohibited from participating in a Pee Wee football league because he's been deemed too large, according to a FOX affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Elijah Earnhardt, who's over 6 feet tall and weighs roughly 300 pounds, had been practicing with a team in the Mesquite Pee Wee Football Association for the past few weeks, according to KDFW Fox 4.

This past Sunday, however, Earnhardt was informed of the league's policy that bars 7th graders over 135 pounds from participating. If Earnhardt hopes to play football this year, it will have to be with the school's league, according to the Pee Wee association's policy.

He's not thrilled with that idea, as he told KDFW Fox 4.

"I don't want to play in school right now because it's people that's had experience and I want to get some experience first and then start playing," he said. "I just want to play because my teammates are my friends. I know them. I don't want to go play for somebody else I don't know."

Earnhardt's coach, Marc Wright, told the FOX affiliate that other student-athletes above 135 pounds are allowed to participate in the league, so long as they wear a helmet with an "X" and play only on the offensive or defensive line.

However, the president of the Mesquite Pee Wee Football Association, Ronnie Henderson, told the FOX affiliate that "the coach over there should have known" that Earnhardt wouldn't be eligible for the league.

"He's been told this," Henderson said. "He's been to our meetings. He knows this. I don't know where the misunderstanding was. We hate it. I don't like it for the kid or the parents."

As Bob Cook of Forbes.com noted, the move comes because "there are too many safety concerns over letting a football player, even (or especially) one who is inexperienced, play a violent collision sport against children who are twice as small, or more, than he is."

Even if the league limited Earnhardt to the offensive or defensive line, he could still present safety concerns when matched up against players half his size.

Given the emerging research about the danger of sub-concussive hits, especially in youth-football leagues, it's difficult to fault a league for taking extra steps to protect its young players.

If anything, as Cook suggests, the real blame lies at allowing Earnhardt to practice in the first place and get his hopes up.

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