Scholarly Seminole: NFL prospect Rolle also has Rhodes aspirations
If all goes to plan on the field this fall, Florida State safety Myron Rolle will produce the kind of season that catapults him into the first round of next spring's NFL draft.
If all goes to plan off the field, Rolle will be faced with a vexing yet welcome decision: NFL locker room or Oxford University classroom?
Rolle, a preseason All-ACC and All-America candidate, is an astounding anomaly in a sport synonymous with low graduation rates and dumbed-down majors. He's a 3.75 pre-med student who will finish his undergraduate degree in just two-and-a-half years; a National Leadership Honor Society inductee; the recipient of a $4,000 research grant for his work studying human mesenchymal stem cells and the facilitator of a health and living program at a charter school run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
"Myron's special, there's no doubt about it," said Florida State president T.K. Wetherell. "To listen to him talk about everything from football to organic chemistry, you think you're talking to a faculty member sometimes."
This fall, a Florida State faculty committee is expected to nominate Rolle for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Only 32 students in the country receive the honor each year, and only two ACC athletes have won them in the past 31 years.
One of those recipients was former FSU shot-putter Garrett Johnson, a finalist at last month's U.S. Olympic trials and close friend of Rolle's. He enrolled at Oxford in 2006.
Jamie Purcell, director for FSU's Office of National Fellowships, worked with both Johnson and 2008 recipient Joseph O'Shea on their Rhodes applications and is now guiding Rolle. She feels as confident in Rolle's chances as she did those of Johnson and O'Shea, the school's first Rhodes recipients since 1976.
Said Purcell: "I don't think there's going to be another candidate like Myron Rolle in the near future."
Last fall, Florida State professor Timothy Logan was delivering a lecture in his human biochemistry class when he slipped in a joke about the Seminoles' struggling football team. Many of the 200 upperclassmen and graduate students in attendance -- most of them pre-med majors -- chuckled.
Afterward, an imposing, 6-foot-2, 220-pound student who had been sitting in the balcony of the auditorium walked up to Logan, introduced himself and politely expressed his displeasure with the joke. It was Myron Rolle.
"I'd seen his name on the [class] roster, but I thought, 'It can't be that Myron Rolle,'" said Logan. "I've had two football players in my class in 14 years -- and the first one was a walk-on."
In what was then just his third semester at Florida State -- and during the heart of the Seminoles' 2007 season -- Rolle was not only enrolled in Logan's rigorous, upper-level biochemistry course, but by the end of the term, he was one of Logan's top students.
"I have kids in my class that are as bright as Myron, but most of them don't have the same demands on their time as a major college football player," said Logan. "And most of them didn't do as well as Myron."
Rolle has had his sights set on becoming a doctor since attending a 10-day, National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in New Orleans in the seventh grade. It was there he first learned about medicine from practicing doctors and where he first interacted with patients recently diagnosed with illness.
"I sort of fell in love with that profession and had my mind set that I wanted to do [pre-med] while still playing football," said Rolle. "Everything I did in high school built up to where I'm at now."
Rolle, the youngest of five brothers, grew up in Galloway, N.J., a standout in baseball, basketball and football. His parents, both Bahamian immigrants -- his father, Whitney, became a financial manager in Princeton, his mother, Beverly, a secretary at Trump Hotel and Casino -- made it abundantly clear that academics took precedence over athletics.
"My parents weren't playing around," said Rolle. "When I'd score touchdowns, hit home runs, score 25 points in a basketball game -- I'd get maybe a slushie. But if I came home with straight As I was getting two pizza pies from my favorite Italian restaurant."