MOBILE, Ala. - What's harder, becoming an NFL safety or becoming a neurosurgeon?
Myron Rolle wants to do both, which is going to be a challenge, even for major college football's rare Rhodes Scholar.
You might remember Rolle, the Florida State player who interviewed for and won the prestigious scholarship to Oxford in November 2008, before joining his teammates for a game later the same day at Maryland. Rolle is back now from a year studying medical anthropology - stuff like how illness narratives work in various societies, he said yesterday. He is wearing football gear for the first time in 13 months, playing for the South team in the Senior Bowl, trying to convince the NFL that he can come back strong and make a living as a football player, something he said he hopes to do for a decade or so before he turns his attention to medicine.
"After [football] is done, then I'll go into medicine. Right now, it's definitely about being an athlete, a teammate, contributing to an NFL franchise," Rolle said.
The Rolle legend hardly needs burnishing, but it got a little anyway, in the wake of the Rhodes announcement. Stories about him implied he had walked away from first-round NFL money when he decided to go to Oxford instead of entering last year's draft. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said yesterday that wasn't really the case, and that carving out an NFL career will require more of Rolle than just the scraping off of a bit of rust.
"The fact that he's been away from the game for a year doesn't bother me or anybody, I don't think," Mayock said. "He looks great - he's in wonderful shape. That's not the issue. The issue when he was [at Florida State] is that he's got a little bit of tight hips, he doesn't move as well as some of the other safeties in this draft. What he's got to show is that he can cover man-to-man, that he's a little bit more fluid than he might have looked a couple of years ago on tape.
"The little bit I saw of him today, I liked him, but I just haven't seen enough yet. I don't think he's a high pick. I don't think anybody thinks he's a first- or second-round pick. What he has to do is rejustify his position somewhere in this draft" in a strong field of safeties.
Rolle, 6-2, 223, said he has been pleased to find practice "a smooth transition." He said he practiced with a rugby team in England, to try to stay sharp.
"People would tell me that coming back to football was just like riding a bike again," he said. "I didn't really believe them; I had to experience it for myself. But when I had the first hit out of the way, the first practice and the jitters, I was very comfortable."
He said he didn't accept the Rhodes opportunity just for the books and the prestige; in England, Rolle learned a little about competing at a high level.
"Oxford is a unique place. People come from all over the world who are bright, compelled, ambitious, and want to fight the world's fight . . . they offer parts of their ideology, parts of their opinions on different topics," he said. "You just challenge or you refute them, or you agree with them, and you develop your own belief system, in a way that's unimaginable. I never had an opportunity to speak to so many gifted, talented, intelligent people at Florida State. Not to say anything bad about my undergraduate institution, but [Oxford's] just a special place, and I really enjoyed it."
Rolle, who came to Florida State from Princeton's Hun School, said he has become close to athletics' most famous Rhodes alum, the former senator from New Jersey and New York Knick Bill Bradley.
He said he hopes that his being drafted by an NFL team will show youngsters "you're able to do both, able to travel parallel roads and have fun at it."