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Billy's grandfather, Obediah, came from Rolle Town and helped build the Grove, and his grandmother became part of the Bahamian neighborhood there that, in the classic immigrant way, could be as smothering as it was supportive. "It was all about family," Billy says. "Everybody was kin in the Grove, so it was like, 'Hey, you can't date this girl; she may be your cousin.' My dad's mother lived in the house right back of us. You know how a wife wants you to break away from your mother? My mom used to tell me, 'I could never pull [yourfather] away from the family.' A few times my mom tried to get my dad to move to Jacksonville. But the Grove was just home for him. It's deep. I find it special myself."
Billy figured he'd be a teacher, too. He took up the profession in the 1980s, after a brief playing career in the USFL and the Canadian Football League, but ended up as a full-time coach. His first stint at Northwestern ended in 2000, when he decided he needed to work closer to his home in Richmond Heights and spend more time with his wife, Loretta, and two young children. But once it became clear last July that the Bulls' senior-heavy team would be allowed to play the 2007 season, alums started calling, and Billy found a return to Northwestern impossible to resist. The Bulls still run Smith's hyperactive spread offense but with a Rolle flair: trick plays like passing to Forston, a defensive tackle turned tight end, for a two-point conversion; in-your-face tactics like purposely going offside to run down the clock. Billy's defense almost rebelled against that one, but he just smiled as time ran out. "I know why they call him Chill Will," Forston says. "This guy don't talk too much, but he's observed so much on the field that when he does talk, everything sounds right. You think, Man, Coach, you're smart."
Of course, beating all comers but one by double digits to go 13--0 will make anyone look like a genius. And with Division I scholarships cascading on his players like autumn leaves, Billy doesn't sound a bit crazy when he says this team is the most talented he's ever seen. The Bulls have cruised since flying into Texas and snapping then-No. 1 Southlake Carroll's 49-game winning streak on Sept. 15, but Hankerson says looks are deceiving. Holding the line on grades and behavior has gotten harder as the wins have piled up. From personally chiding one receiver for an over-the-top touchdown celebration to insisting on Saturday-morning tutoring sessions, the principal has done things over which other coaches would go to war. But at every step, Billy Rolle has said, "O.K., that's what you want." No player has fallen short of the 2.5 conduct grade standard.
"It appears from the outside that it's easy to take over a team that's this good," Hankerson says. "But given everything that surrounds this team and the microscope we've been under since Aug. 1, it takes a very, very special person. The talent was still here, yes, but to pick the talent up, to refocus it, to make it understand there's a new system, culture, way of thinking? That's been all Billy."
Well, truth be told, it has been Billy and that whole Rolle thing. Chill Will didn't spring out of nowhere. He's part of a network, a continuum born of blood and sweat; he and Antrel and Samari and their fathers have all talked and found some old names in common and decided, yes, somewhere along the line they're family.
A few weeks ago Billy was lying on his couch on a Saturday afternoon, exhausted after his team's 53--10 first-round playoff rampage over his alma mater, Coral Gables, the night before. "I like our chances," he rasped into the phone about the possibility of Northwestern's winning out. (Last Friday night the Bulls beat South Dade 55--14 to advance to the state 6A semifinals.) As he spoke, you could hear a television in the background. Billy kept flipping between two football games: Ohio State-- Michigan, where he could watch the Buckeyes' Brian Rolle knock people down left, right and center, and Florida State-- Maryland, where Billy could see Myron Rolle put hell on the Terps' receivers. "There he is now," Billy said as Myron crossed the screen. Then he clicked to Ohio State. "I'm looking at both of them."
Myron and Brian would win that day, and Antrel's huge performance against Cincinnati 24 hours later would make for a sweet trifecta: high school, college and NFL all getting a good taste of the island.
A nation, like a
tree, does not thrive well till it is engraffed with a foreign stock.
BEVERLY ROLLE had one thought when it came to the birth of her fifth son, and nothing could change it: He would be an American. He would grow up in this country and get all the benefits, opportunities and, especially, educational options that U.S. citizenship could provide. Her husband, Whitney, wasn't so driven; they had a good life in Nassau, didn't they? But at some point when Whitney was in college in Minnesota or grad school in Florida or living in New Jersey while he worked at Citibank in New York City in the early '80s, the hook was set. "Oh, yeah," Whitney says with a laugh. "She thinks she's from New Jersey!"
Their three oldest boys had been born in the Bahamas but had some schooling in the U.S. The fourth was born in Ridgewood, N.J., but returned with the family to the Bahamas. Midway into her pregnancy with the fifth, in 1986, Beverly left Whitney in Nassau, sent the two older boys to Whitney's sister's home in New Jersey, packed up the two youngest and flew to stay with friends in Houston. She didn't budge for four months, not until Myron arrived kicking and squalling deep in the heart of Texas. The family has lived in Galloway, N.J., since 1987. "My mother really runs the family, and she knew she wanted to be here," Myron says. "She told me: There's so much you can do if you use the system. The education is great. If you're put in the right situation, you can really become successful."