As much as I dislike the School Out West...
This kid is damn impressive!
No contradiction here: Rolle is a 'Nole and a scholar
By Dennis Dodd
What's the biggest story right now at Florida State?
• The No. 20 Seminoles are in the AP rankings for the fourth consecutive week.
• Bobby Bowden's 79th birthday on Saturday produced his 380th career win.
• The ACC title, Bobby's first since 2005, is a definite possibility with three regular-season games to play.
• The program is waiting nervously for the NCAA to hand down penalties after findings of widespread academic fraud last year.
It's actually all of them if you insert junior safety Myron Rolle. In one way or another, perhaps the most academically proficient football player in FSU history is involved.
As a player, let's just say Rolle is a heck of a pre-med student. Oh, he was highly recruited out of high school and has played well enough to leave early for the NFL, but Rolle probably won't be remembered most for what he did on the field at FSU.
That's a good thing. In his own way, Rolle has tried to change the perception of Florida State football. On Nov. 22, he will be interviewed for a Rhodes Scholarship. In his coach's hometown, Birmingham, Ala., Rolle will try to become one of 32 U.S. students to receive the prestigious honor.
On the same day, he will try to help Florida State beat Maryland, get to the ACC championship game and ultimately a BCS bowl. The school already has gotten the NCAA to sign off on a private plane that would take Rolle from Birmingham to College Park, Md., for the game.
The latest he would arrive would be for the second half, but as of Tuesday a school spokesman said the latest schedule shows that Rolle likely will make kickoff.
"It speaks volumes for our coaches as well," said a source close to the football program. "They're probably doing it with some trepidation. They're getting more mileage out of this by letting him do this (interview)."
What hurts the football team in the short term helps the university in the long run. That's not a philosophy that has been followed at Florida State -- or at lot of major programs -- all the time. But there is no question what will be most important to Rolle that day.
"If I'm fortunate to win the Rhodes Scholarship, it will shift a more positive light on our school," Rolle said.
Here's what he is telling you without actually telling you: As an institution of higher learning, FSU is a heck of a football factory. There are maybe two schools in the country that owe their existence in the public consciousness to the coach and the football program.
The other one is located in State College, Pa.
Penn State has had its own off-field problems, but Rolle plays for a program that tries every day to live down its rep as party school Free Shoes University. There aren't many universities where the president (T.K. Wetherell) played under the current head coach (Bowden was Wetherell's receivers coach in the 1960s).
Reputations die hard. Rolle hopes that the NCAA doesn't come down with the ultimate hammer, at least as far as Florida State is concerned, on the latest set of transgressions.
The forfeiture of games in which academically ineligible athletes played is still a possibility. That would rock the university on several levels. Though Florida State penalized itself, those penalties might not be enough. Forfeits would be seen as the ultimate insult. Considering their ages, such a penalty would effectively end the all-time victories race between Bowden and Joe Paterno. JoePa currently leads 381-380.
Florida State would be branded a cheater again despite what it thinks are appropriate self-imposed penalties. The dichotomy between the reputations of the football program and Rolle is obvious. The team's best student plays for a program that is perceived as something as less than excellent off the field.
"That would be very difficult," Rolle said of NCAA sanctions. "Coach Bowden has worked hard. We have worked hard for him. I know it does mean a lot to him. More importantly, Coach Bowden is concerned with developing men of good character. Coach Bowden was more interested in me as a person. That's what my mother felt comfortable with. Players leave knowing they were coached and taught by a spiritual man, by a good man."
While his pre-med studies seem to come easy (he has a 3.75 GPA), football can be unforgiving. There are subtle hints that the sport is still king at FSU. In spring 2007, Rolle went to London for six weeks to study, missing some offseason workouts in the process.
Later, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews was quoted as saying Rolle was "kind of average" as a sophomore in 2007. Andrews went on to suggest that Rolle didn't prepare for games last season "like he was trying to get an A" in the classroom.
"I don't know if it's a fair question," Rolle said. "Coach Andrews understands that I'm a student first. My pre-med classes were very difficult and required a lot of study. When it came time to play football and watch football and study my scouting report, I did it with a 100 percent effort."
The player is still looking for his second career interception, which might never come considering the student has graduated in 2½ years with a bachelor's degree in exercise science and would be eligible for the NFL Draft after this season.
Is he a Deion Sanders? Definitely not, but that's not the issue. Rolle might not ever go to the Pro Bowl, but Sanders never got invited to a president's inaugural. To cover the cost of Rolle traveling to Washington, D.C., to see Barack Obama sworn in, the school has dipped into the NCAA Student Opportunity Fund.
"I feel that sometimes people snicker at the term student-athlete," Rolle said. "They believe that student-athletes aren't really students first. I think I'm an example of someone of who can balance both. ... I want to be that example. I want to be that person who says if you want it, you can have it."
There are some good academic stories to tell at FSU. If you ranked the current AP Top 25 by NCAA Graduation Success Rate, the Seminoles would be sixth. Their GSR is 69 percent.
Rolle's inspiration is former FSU shot-putter Garrett Johnson, who enrolled at Oxford in 2006. Quarterback Christian Ponder is a fine student, too. Both he and Rolle arrived in January 2006. They had piled up so much college credit before college that by the end of that spring semester they were academic sophomores.
Faculty members have been quizzing Rolle with sample questions from the Rhodes committee:
You could make millions in the NFL, why a Rhodes Scholarship?
How does the recent election impact today's youth?
How would a Rhodes Scholarship shape your future plans?
No pressure, kid. It's just fourth down and your entire life to go. Rolle already is getting nervous. History tells us that applicants from Ivy League or private schools dominate the process. Rolle could have increased his Rhodes chances by going to one of those schools. Lord knows, he would have been admitted and thrived.
Instead, this New Jersey kid who went to prep school at The Hun School in Princeton chose to come Tallahassee because it wasn't just a football factory.
"When I took my recruiting visit, not only did I meet Coach Bowden and Coach Andrews ... I met of the office of national fellowship director," Rolle said. "He was talking about post-graduate opportunities. He was talking about all these opportunities that other schools didn't address."
His inspirations are as varied as his life. Rolle speaks regularly with former Seminole greats Samari Rolle (no relation) and Terrell Buckley. They talk to him about team and technique. There's also an obvious connection to another famous athlete.
"He was a Rhodes Scholar, played basketball, a former U.S. Senator, made a bid for the presidency. He's a great example of someone who can do both," Rolle said reverently of Bill Bradley.
That he can get to this point at Free Shoes University is more than a tribute to a brilliant kid.
"Florida State definitely allowed me to get there," Rolle said.