A Great Rolle Model

According to Rolle, “The impression I get from people around the NFL – not necessarily in it, but around it – is that the NFL wants players for whom football is their No. 1 priority, their No. 2 priority and their No. 3 priority…


Even non sports fans have heard of athletes like Terrell Owens (T.O.), “Pacman” Jones, Mike Tyson, O. J. Simpson or Ben Roethlisberger—for all the wrong reasons.  But, I guarantee that most people have never heard of Myron Rolle.

Who is Myron Rolle? He is a recent Rhodes Scholar who is finishing his graduate degree in medical anthropology.  He graduated from Florida State University (FSU) in 2 ½ years with a pre-medical degree in exercise science with a grade point average of 3.75.

So, why is this so newsworthy?  Let me continue.  He decided to forego his senior year of football eligibility to accept a Rhodes Scholarship and attend graduate school at Oxford University in England.  There are only 32 Rhodes Scholarships awarded every year.  He played football for three years at one of the best football schools in the country—FSU.  He gave up his senior year to attend graduate school, thereby deferring by one year his dream of playing professional football –had he entered the draft instead of going to Oxford, he was projected to go in either the 1st or 2nd round.

Rolle has already stated that after his career in professional football, he plans to attend medical school to become a neurosurgeon.  To that end, he has already established his own foundation—the Myron L. Rolle Medical Clinic and Sports Complex (www.myronrolle.com). The clinic will be built in Steventon, Exuma in the Bahamas where Rolle’s parents are from.  Rolle grew up in Galloway, New Jersey.

Last month, Rolle was drafted in the 6th round by the Tennessee Titans as the 207th overall selection. There were a total of 7 rounds and 255 people drafted. What I find fascinating is why Rolle was drafted so low.  

According to several media reports, during the N.F.L.’s annual spring combines where all the top college prospects work out in for team executives, the word was that Rolle was not committed to football. This was because he passed up his senior year to go to graduate school. So, let me get this right—because Rolle is smart and his life consists of more than just playing football, he somehow is not committed to being a good professional football player?  

This type of thinking among N.F.L. executives led to one of the most offensive situations I have ever heard of in professional sports.  At the Senior Bowl last January, Rolle had a pre-draft interview with the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including the head coach Raheem Morris, the youngest coach in the league—33– and also Black; and general manager Mark Dominik. 

During this meeting, a member of the coaching staff asked Rolle what it felt like to desert his team to attend graduate school?  Rolle later told a reporter, “I hadn’t heard that one before.  My initial reaction was a bit of confusion.“  So, he was chosen lower in the draft because he is a smart, well rounded person who is already planning for a future without football. What message is this sending to our youth?  One N.F.L. executive is quoted as having said, “he’s a better story than he is a player.”

According to Rolle, “The impression I get from people around the NFL – not necessarily in it, but around it – is that the NFL wants players for whom football is their No. 1 priority, their No. 2 priority and their No. 3 priority…For me, I’ve never been someone with a singular talent. I have other abilities and interests and I think I would be doing a disservice to me, my team, my family, everyone who has invested stock in me if I was just so isolated in one thing. … The thing I always try to present to people in the NFL as far as my commitment is that my academics and my concerns at Oxford or as an outside philanthropist can help my football abilities. It can help me be someone more disciplined on the field, help me be someone more balanced and knowledgeable. It can help the other guys if they want to get involved in the foundation or the community rather than going out and partying or getting in trouble somehow.”

There was no public outcry when the story about Tampa Bay became public. But, let an athlete be suspended for a few games for getting into trouble with the law and people lose their minds.

Has our society really come to the point where being intelligent is now a liability and can actually cause you to be drafted in a later round because your commitment to the game is now in question?

Myron Rolle should be universally lauded and praised for showing us that you don’t have to smart or an athlete; but you can be both.  I find it ironic that at 6’2” and 215 lbs, Rolle plays the safety position.  The safety is the last line of defense before the opponent scores a touchdown.  He truly is the last line of defense against the caricature of the “dumb” athlete.

Right before our eyes, Myron is playing the role of a lifetime, but it doesn’t’ seem like he has much of a supporting cast.  But, if he continues down the path he is on, his choices will be vindicated and he will be viewed as the ultimate Rolle model. 

Columnist Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.  He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com).


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