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Posted: Thursday November 6, 2008 12:38PM; Updated: Thursday November 6, 2008 5:26PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >

FSU's Rolle choosing Rhodes interview over Maryland game

Story Highlights

Myron Rolle, who has a 3.75 GPA in pre-med, was named a Rhodes Scholar finalist

Rolle has to be in Birmingham on Nov. 22; FSU plays at Maryland on the same day

If the game is at night, FSU will petition the NCAA to fly him in for second half

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Myron Rolle
Myron Rolle may have to decide between NFL riches and academic enlightenment.
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When 6-2 Florida State visits 6-2 Maryland on Nov. 22, there's a decent chance the game could decide the ACC's Atlantic Division. Unfortunately for the 'Noles, they may be without one of their top defensive players.

This may be the rare occasion where that's considered a good thing.

Last summer, I wrote a feature about Florida State safety Myron Rolle, an accomplished student-athlete who was applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, the most prestigious academic honor an American undergraduate can receive. Each year, the Rhodes Trust affords 32 students from across the country the opportunity to study at England's Oxford University. It is believed that no major-level football player has won the award in more than a decade.

Upon returning home from the Seminoles' 31-28 loss at Georgia Tech last Saturday night, Rolle, a 3.75 pre-med student who finished his undergrad degree in two-and-a-half years, received an e-mail notifying him that he'd been named a Rhodes finalist.

"I was disappointed about losing the [Georgia Tech] game," said Rolle, "but the news about the Rhodes Scholarship lifted my spirits."

There's only one downside to his achievement. In the final step of what has already been an extensive application process, Rolle must appear in Birmingham, Ala., to interview before the Rhodes selection committee. Both the interview and subsequent announcement of the winners will take place on Nov. 22 -- the day of the Maryland game.

I first stumbled upon this potential conflict in the course of reporting my story on Rolle in July. It seemed to me a potentially crippling roadblock. After all, what major college football program would allow one of its best players to voluntarily skip a game?

Rolle, who had not yet been made aware of the conflict, said at the time: "I definitely couldn't miss that game. I wouldn't do that to my teammates."

On Wednesday, however, Rolle told me: "I'm definitely going to Birmingham.

"The more I do mock interviews here at school and think about what I want to say [to the committee], I have grown to really want to be a Rhodes Scholar," said Rolle. "If it takes missing a game, that's what it takes."

Most refreshing of all: His coaches agree.

"We couldn't be more proud of this happening for one of our players," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said Wednesday. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and you wouldn't dare deny him that. I just hope he wins it."

Rolle, the youngest of five brothers from Galloway, N.J., and the son of two academic-minded Bahamian immigrants, has had his sights set on a career in medicine since middle school.

Were he fortunate enough to attend Oxford, his goal is to "study medical anthropology with some of the greatest minds in the world." The knowledge he'd gain from that field, which examines the social and cultural aspects of medicine, would go a long way toward his ultimate goal of building clinics in the Bahamas and around the world.

Again, this is a football player we're talking about.

"I always talked about being a Rhodes Scholar, but it was just so distant at the time. I didn't think of the magnitude of the award," said Rolle. "Now that it's possibly three weeks away, it has hit me."

Upon first hearing the news Monday, FSU athletic director Randy Spetman immediately began looking into the logistics of whether Rolle could possibly attend both the interview and the game.

ESPN will not decide until Sunday at the earliest whether the game will be played during the afternoon or in prime time. If it's an afternoon kickoff, Rolle can't make the game. The Rhodes Scholar interviews don't conclude until about 5 p.m. central time.

In the event of a night game, however, Spetman will ask the ACC to petition the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the school to fly Rolle to Maryland, either by charter or via a booster's private plane. With an estimated two-hour flight time, he could theoretically make it by halftime.

"We'll make every effort possible to get him there," Bowden said. "Maybe he'll get back to play some."

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