FSU's Rolle choosing Rhodes interview over Maryland game (cont.)
Bowden could certainly use Rolle's services. After an admittedly disappointing sophomore season that drew the ire of defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, the former No. 1 recruit in the country has been one of the 'Noles' top performers this season. He's second on the team in tackles (43) and was recently named one of 15 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player.
After watching film of FSU's Oct. 4 win over Miami, in which Rolle had four pass breakups, Andrews -- the 'Noles' defensive coordinator for the past 25 years -- called it one of the best performances by a safety he'd ever graded.
Rolle attributes his improvement to offseason strength work and increased film study with two former standout FSU defensive backs, current strength and conditioning coach Terrell Buckley and Samari Rolle (no relation), the Baltimore Ravens cornerback who serves as Myron's mentor. His graduate classes in public administration are admittedly less rigorous than his pre-med work last year, thus freeing up more time for game preparation.
"I talk to [Samari Rolle] three times a week to get instant feedback on my play, tips to improve and techniques to use for the upcoming game," Myron said. "For instance, when we played Tyrod Taylor and Virginia Tech, I asked Samari to give me pointers on how to effectively play a running quarterback. All of these things have given me an edge on the field."
Asked Wednesday whether it was his "call" to allow Rolle to miss the Maryland game, Spetman replied: "It's Myron's call.
" ... Coach Bowden, coach Andrews and I are totally supporting Myron in going to [Birmingham]. He's a great player, we need him [against Maryland], but this is phenomenal for our athletic program that we have someone of Myron's academic ability. It will be a great credit for us to have him interview."
As news of Rolle's situation began leaking out Wednesday, Rolle said he received a Facebook message from a Maryland student interested in starting a petition on his behalf requesting the latest kickoff time possible.
Rolle said his teammates are supportive of his situation. They're much more mystified by the possibility that, should he win the Rhodes Scholarship, Rolle might pass up the riches of next spring's NFL draft to study at Oxford. (The third-year player has already said this will be his final college season.)
"I've heard all kinds of things," said Rolle. "They tell me, 'You'd be crazy if you pass that up.' Or, 'I don't know what the Rhodes Scholarship is, but I know what the first round is.' "
Rolle, who is close friends with former FSU track star and 2006 Rhodes Scholar Garrett Johnson, admits that he doesn't know yet what he'll do if presented with that choice. "I haven't gotten that far yet," he said. "I'd like to win the scholarship first.
"But I'm going to tell you now: I'm a student first, I've always valued education. People who are Rhodes Scholars have continued to tell me this is an experience you can't get anywhere else. If I'm lucky enough to get it, it would be hard to turn it down."
At least one teammate grasps his situation. During a break in practice Wednesday, freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel asked Rolle if he'd actually opt for the Rhodes Scholarship over the NFL. Rolle said he didn't know yet, but that it was a possibility.
"Man, that's crazy," Manuel told him. "But you know what? You're special."
"I appreciated that," Rolle said. "I try to be a real student-athlete. I'm glad that he picked up on it. Hopefully I can be a role model in that way to some of the younger guys."
Rolle has been doing just that to several different age groups lately. Over the summer, he conducted a health-education program for fifth graders at a charter school run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida on its reservation near Lake Okeechobee, Fla. Students took part in a competition, and the winning team was honored on the field during the 'Noles' Oct. 25 game against Virginia Tech.
And when I talked to Rolle on Wednesday night, he had just returned from speaking to a jayvee football team at a local high school.
Nothing, however, will send a greater message to a larger audience than when the announcers of that Nov. 22 game tell viewers why Rolle is missing.
Who knows? Perhaps a newly anointed Rhodes Scholar will come running out of the tunnel at halftime.