AFTER A grueling interview and a two-hour wait last Saturday, the real torture began for Myron Rolle. The Florida State safety was sitting in an office in Mountain Brook, Ala., waiting to hear if he had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Drayton Nabers Jr., chairman of the District 7 selection committee, was announcing two winners chosen from the 13 finalists interviewed that day. Nabers paused after the first name, Harvard's Parker Goyer. The three-second wait, says Rolle, "felt like an eternity."
For Rolle, a junior from Galloway, N.J., who finished his premed degree in 2 1/2 years and received a grant for cancer research last summer, the wait was worth it. When Nabers announced him as one of the 32 U.S. Scholars who can study at Oxford, Rolle bowed his head and thanked God—briefly: He had a plane to catch. In 2 1/2 hours his team would face Maryland in College Park, and Rolle wanted to help keep the FSU's ACC Atlantic Division title hopes alive.
A Ford Excursion carried Rolle to Birmingham International Airport, where a jet on loan from Outback Steakhouse cofounder Bob Basham awaited. (The NCAA allowed Basham to give the flight as an in-kind donation to FSU's booster club.) Rolle settled in and discussed his Rhodes interview with a small group of reporters. Then he clicked on his iPod and allowed Frank Sinatra and Ice Cube to sing/rap him to sleep. By the time the jet touched down in Baltimore, the Seminoles and the Terrapins had kicked off. Rolle hopped into a University police pickup bound for Byrd Stadium, and FSU fans gave him a standing O when he appeared late in the first half. After Rolle's third play, back judge Tommy Pace walked over and shook his hand.
Rolle made two tackles, and FSU cruised to a 37--3 win. Afterward Rolle—still chilly from the Gatorade bath his teammates gave him—had a hug-heavy reunion with his parents and four brothers. Rolle's dad, Whitney, wore the biggest smile. "Myron," he said, "has always been exceptional. Always."
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Read more from Andy Staples on Myron Rolle's Saturday adventure at SI.com/rolle.