Marian University linebacker Shaquille Ash works as an Indianapolis accountant intern as he waits and decides on the possibility of joining the Canadian Football League in two years.

The 5-foot-9 Columbus North graduate entered the 2016-17 season as a preseason All-American coming off of a NAIA National Championship where he recorded six tackles in a 31-14 win over Southern Oregon. A high ankle sprain during the third game of this season sidelined him for two games, but he still managed to finish his career fourth in school history with 272 tackles and 18 sacks.

Ash’s injury never completely healed during the season and kept him on a limited playing schedule for the remainder of the year. He still had a solid chance of winning another national title as the No. 1-ranked Knights were trying to make it to their third championship in as many years. A 17-0 loss to No. 9 Eastern Oregon prevented that from happening. The 20 seniors on Marian’s roster were left in shock after ending their last game as a Knight with a quarterfinals loss.

“Being the No. 1 team, we didn’t expect to end the season that early, so it was rough at first,” Ash said. “We all got back together two or three weeks later. All the seniors went out and just reminisced on everything.”

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The accounting and finance major, who played his first football game as a seventh-grader, had much to reminisce on when thinking about what football has done for his life. The way Ash attacked the ball carrier was unlike any other player North Time Bless had ever seen. Ash was one of Bless’ all-time favorite players to coach, he said. In high school, Ash had a fairly quiet demeanor whom Bless described as a great leader that everybody respected.

Ash had a hard-nosed work ethic on the field and in the classroom. His time management skills and leadership capabilities, which Ash said he acquired though playing football, is what helped him land his accounting internship. Ash gives much of the credit to his coaches, who set high expectations for him on and off the field.

“That’s the whole point of sports we try to utilize as coaches,” Bless said. “Taking boys into men and using the game of football as a tool for that … Shaq is going to be a success in whatever endeavor he chooses.”

The CFL is still is an option for Ash, who is planning on participating in some regional combines next spring. He is taking a year off to let his ankle heal properly while a number of his Knights teammates are trying to make a roster this year.

Ash is not putting all his eggs in one basket though. He is striving to become a certified accountant in case the CFL does not work out. The goal is to use his internship to open the door for a future job, which might end his aspirations of becoming a professional athlete.

“That football thing isn’t always going to work out,” he said. “So right now, I’m just focused on the education part. If I have a good job offer coming out, I’m not going to pass that up for something that is not guaranteed.”

His teammates have available contacts for Ash to schedule workouts with teams after his ankle heals if he chooses. Trying out for the CFL is in Ash’s plans for now, but that could change come this time next year.

The Shaq Attack

Name: Shaquille Ash

High school: Columbus North

College: Marian University

Year: Senior

Height: 5-foot-9

Position: Linebacker

Marian career stats: 272 tackles (fourth all-time); 18 sacks (fourth all-time)

Accomplishments: 2015-16 NAIA Champion; 2016-17 preseason All-American

Postgrad career choice: Accountant or Canadian Football League

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.