Myron Rolle's Long 'Rhodes' to the NFL
Myron, is Myron Rolle, the former All-American safety at Florida State, turned Rhodes Scholar, turned future NFL defensive back. Upon first glance, he is every bit the decorated football star; long torso, monstrous physique, broad shoulders. But there is much, much more to his story, a journey that began in Galloway, N.J., just a two-and-a-half hour drive from New York.
As a high school senior in 2006, ESPN rated Rolle as the No. 1 prep football player in the nation. He had 83 -- yes 83 -- scholarship offers to play college football. Ultimately, he chose prestigious Florida State, one of the most celebrated programs in all of the land, home to Doak Campbell Stadium and the infamous Bobby Bowden, whom Rolle praises as a "motivator."
From day one, however, Rolle made it clear he was more than just a football player, a lot more. "They actually encouraged [the Rhodes Scholarship]," Rolle said of FSU. "They brought Garret Johnson [a shot-putter and Rhodes Scholar] in before me, and said I could follow in the same path. They supported it."
That's all Rolle needed to hear.
After a stellar three years in Tallahassee, during which he earned ACC Rookie of the Year, two All-ACC selections, and a third-team All-America nod (oh, and by the way, he graduated in just five semesters, helped by a number of advanced placement credits he earned in high school), Rolle decided to put his NFL plans on hold and accept the highly touted honor to become one of 32 American Rhodes Scholars.
He and his brother McKinley, whom Myron refers to as his "de facto trainer," flew to Oxford, England, where Myron would spend the next five months studying, training, and then doing some more studying. Typical mornings included 6 a.m. wake-up times followed by gruesome two-hour-plus workouts indoors and on the rugby fields (hey, this is Great Britain after all).
"We lifted for an hour, and I recorded all of Myron's weights every day," Mckinley says. "He made progress weekly. He got stronger as the process went on. We followed Coach [Tom] Shaw's daily program, which would be speed or agility. After that, we would do football related stuff. We went to the Bucs game and stole two defensive backs drills. I wanted him to do things that NFL players do."
Like Rolle, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley was also a highly recruited athlete as the top-ranked high school basketball player in the country and benefactor of 75 scholarship offers. And, like Rolle, Bradley was a collegiate All-American that accepted a Rhodes Scholarship, which he followed by returning to sports and becoming an NBA champion and Hall of Fame inductee. Bradley pioneered the process by becoming the first to achieve such high levels of success in both arenas. Both during and after his NBA tenure, Bradley used athletics as a platform to make a difference elsewhere in avenues like business, academics and government.
In a recent interview with FanHouse, Senator Bradley said that his original intention upon crossing the pond was with one sole focus in mind: "When I left for Oxford, I thought I was actually finished with basketball, [but] I played Italian basketball. I loved the game, and decided to come back. But it was a very important experience in my life."
While Rolle always anticipated a return to football, he wants to have the same type of enduring impact off the field as Bradley has. "I want my legacy [to be known as] a young man who used his platform or status as a football player and celebrity to reach new audiences," Rolle says. "[I want] to reach more people, and to mobilize positive, philanthropic action. Spread the word of helping others, spread the word that we're all one human race, that our obligation as human beings is to help others." His dream job is just as impressive as that last statement. "[I want] to be a trained neurosurgeon, something I've wanted since I was five."
Just as he did with football last year, all of his other interests and passions -- medicine, his foundation, humanitarianism -- are put on hold for now. Because for the first time in his life, Myron Rolle has made it clear he is all about football.
Football, after all, has always been something he wanted. "[The NFL] is a dream come true," he says. "I've wanted to play in the NFL since I was six years old."
Wanting to show he is now 100 percent focused on the game, he sought out the necessary steps.
But in attending the NFL combine -- widely considered the most vital series of workouts for potential draftees -- rust played a factor. Rolle's 40 time -- viewed as the benchmark for most positions including safety -- was sub-par at best, being clocked as high as 4.64 seconds.
Undeterred, Rolle continued to train and prepare for future opportunities, such as his Pro Day and the Senior Bowl. Ever persistent and driven, his hard work paid off. In Orlando, in front of numerous NFL scouts, Rolle blazed through the 40-yard dash, running a much improved 4.54, thus proving he had the burst necessary to cover top-notch speed. He has recently been clocked as fast as 4.5.
For Rolle, though, the doubts about his speed and quickness have never been an issue. A cerebral and technically sound player, he also enjoys getting a little nasty. "I love being physical," he said. "I love being aggressive. I can cover, I have great feet, I don't miss many tackles, and I don't miss assignments either. [I want to be a] first-year starter," Rolle said half-jokingly, half-serious.
Pundits will be pundits, though, and despite his obvious physical tools and mental capacity, some teams have questioned whether Rolle (who doesn't drink alcohol) is actually "too smart" for the game. In classic Rolle form, he casually dismisses such a sentiment, proving once again every bit the confident gentleman. "It's a bit comical," he said, "and a bit confusing at the same time, because I've always tried to be a great student and always thought that being a strong academic could help me in football."
The doubters also gave Rolle some extra mental bulletin board material as well. "It motivates me more to show how you can be smart and be a great football player, not just an average and mediocre one."
The other main question mark surrounding Rolle as he reemerges into the football landscape is his overall adjustment back to the game; more specifically, his feel, reads and, of course, commitment level. Bradley himself faced similar question marks from those who didn't believe he could successfully make the transition after an extended hiatus, but the Senator had a curious response when asked about it.
"Coming back was great," he said, "because you had plenty of time to read. You spent three or four hours a day on your game, and the rest of the day was yours." His conviction is more than reminiscent to Rolle's. "Going [to Oxford] was a great experience," Bradley said. "It was remarkable."
Entering the daily grind of professional athletics is surely a taxing challenge, but one Bradley knows can be done. "[Returning] does [mean] a more focused life," he says. "You have something prime you're doing. You're not trying to do four or five things [as was the case overseas]."
For these two men -- marked apart by over 40 years -- they will forever remain parallel at the core. Realizing their time studying at Oxford was invaluable, their rare acumen and ability to comprehend the importance of balance at a young age speaks to their maturity. It is something Bradley grasped in 1965, and something Rolle fully understands today.
This weekend is a big one for Rolle, surely one he will never forget. The NFL Draft begins Thursday and goes through Saturday. While he has been projected to go as high as the second round and as low as the sixth, his draft placement seems strangely irrelevant.
With a steady look of confidence and ease, he says he's "not nervous." And frankly, after what he's been through, why should he be?
"I've done everything I can do," Rolle said in an eerily calm tone. Instead of worrying about which round he'll go or what team will take him, he plans to watch the draft in the comforts of home with his family, away from the bright lights of New York City.
Rolle said most NFL teams have contacted him at some point, although even now he has begun hearing from certain coaches for the first time. "The Colts called the other day," he says. "I hadn't heard from them before."
With most draftees, the terms "need" and "fit" are often applied, the type of team and system proving almost as important as their individual talents. But with Rolle, it doesn't seem to matter as much. You get the feeling this kid is going to be successful wherever he goes.