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Rolle Call
S.L. PRICE
December 10, 2007
Members of the Rolle clan, descended from freed slaves in the Bahamas, have left their mark on football, baseball, basketball, track and other college and pro sports in the U.S.
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December 10, 2007

Rolle Call

Members of the Rolle clan, descended from freed slaves in the Bahamas, have left their mark on football, baseball, basketball, track and other college and pro sports in the U.S.

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Myron's family, in fact, is a success story suitable for an exhibit at Ellis Island. Whitney's father worked the Contract up and down the East Coast but always shuttled home to Exuma and then Nassau, working as a mason until he died. Whitney and Beverly married in 1971 and sealed the generational jump from blue-collar to white, pushing education on their boys as if it were oxygen: In order, Marchant became an investment banker in Pennsylvania, Marvis a lawyer in New Jersey, Mordecai a U.S. Army medic; McKinley is getting his graduate degree in sports management at Florida State. That's not so rare a scorecard for immigrant couples out of the West Indies.

"A foreign person who comes here will work harder because there's so many opportunities that people just ignore," says Whitney, 57, now a senior systems engineer with a New Jersey financial services company. "Myron was telling me the other day about some award in Florida—if you get a certain grade point average, you can get a college scholarship. If I knew that, I'd have lived in Florida a long time ago. And in the meantime, people are coming home with a C average? If you're getting a C, something is wrong with you."

But by any standard, Myron has always been a young man in a hurry. One of the nation's top prep prospects, he received 57 scholarship offers as a senior at The Hun School in Princeton, N.J., and announced his decision live, out of Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, on ESPN2. It wasn't the toughest decision; Florida State had a secret weapon. "Samari was Myron's hero," said Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden.

Myron first phoned Samari in 2004, a high school junior cold-calling an All-Pro NFL vet, asking him which Rolle relatives they had in common. They're still trying to figure that out. But Samari had been keeping tabs on Myron, and he praised Myron more for his work in the classroom than for his achievements on the football field. Soon they were talking three times a week, about their strong faith, tight families, tough dads, educational priorities—the whole Bahamian ethos. Samari had grown up in Miami Beach, the son of two teachers, Harry and Grace, married 32 years now. Upset about his scarce playing time as a junior at Miami Beach High, Samari had begged his father to let him transfer to Miami Northwestern, where Billy Rolle was the defensive coordinator, for his senior year. Harry had told him, No. You're a Rolle. You're going to tough it out, move to quarterback and be named athlete of the year.

"Season comes along, everything went according to plan," Samari says. " Coach Bowden won his national championship Jan. 1, 1994, and came to my house on Jan. 2 at 10 a.m. My dad said, 'I told you you were a Rolle.'"

Common bloodline or no, it was eerie for Myron to hear something so, well, familiar. "We haven't found that we're cousins," he says, "but I feel we're so close I could call him my cousin. We'll text-message, call. I spend time with his kids, his wife. He's somebody I can ask for any advice: how to cover a three-yard slant or how to talk to a girl. He's pretty much a mentor."

After graduating from high school a semester early, in January 2006, Myron enrolled at FSU in exercise science with plans to graduate by the end of summer 2008. He expects to play one more year of college ball—while finishing off a graduate degree in public administration—and then six or seven years in the NFL before turning to fulfill his real ambition: becoming a neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, after Myron broke out big as a roving safety four games into his freshman season, his tackles and interceptions declined this fall, but the FSU coaches don't doubt him. "I can say this: As a sophomore he's a lot further along than Samari was," says Bowden.

And to hear Samari tell it, Myron may always be ahead of him. "He's the perfect kid," says the Ravens cornerback, now the father of three. "Whenever I see Myron, what my wife once said runs through my head: 'That's what I want my son to be.'"

WITH MYRON'S 3.8 GPA and physical gifts, it's tempting to see him as the apotheosis of Rolle family values. Yes, as Antrel says, "it has to continue. He's not going to be the last Rolle who's going to make it." For most Rolles born in the U.S., the Bahamas is a vacation spot. Billy hasn't been there since 1980. Samari has gone at least a dozen times, and Antrel plans to make his first trip to Exuma when this football season ends. Myron, though, is connected to the islands in a way that even his brothers and parents aren't. He's been going there since he was a baby, and something in the spirit of the place speaks to him in a way the U.S. doesn't. His great athletic ambition isn't the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It's the Wall of Fame at Nassau's international airport. His great hope is to develop his skills as a neurosurgeon and take them back to the Bahamas someday and open a free clinic.

"I was born in the United States, and I'm a citizen, and I love this country," Myron says, "but the Bahamas is who I am. Every time I go back, I feel so much support and so much love: my cousins, my aunties, my uncles. I see that the facilities there are not up to the standards of the U.S. Not enough attention is paid to medicine, to practitioners and facilities; there's often overcrowding in hospitals.

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