Myron Rolle's Unlikely Path to Oxford

A standout football player with NFL aspirations redefined the definition of "student-athlete."

Myron Rolle announces that he will attend Florida State University at a press conference in his home state of New Jersey in 2005.
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It has been a year since Florida State football star Myron Rolle famously arrived on the field halfway into Florida State's 37-3 victory against the University of Maryland. The standout safety was capping off a whirlwind November day that marked an exciting chapter in Rolle's story, one that picked up steam this summer and will be a hot topic when the NFL draft process starts in the next few months.

The reason Rolle was late to the game last November: Earlier that day, Rolle traveled to Birmingham, Ala., where he was interviewed for a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious honors bestowed upon the world's top college students. After his interview, Rolle hopped on a charter flight to join his team in College Park, Md., for the critical Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with Maryland. While traveling—just hours after his interview and about three hours before kickoff—Rolle received the good news: He had been selected as a Rhodes scholar.

[Slide show: Myron Rolle and Other Famous Rhodes Scholars]

But the biggest news was yet to come. After the football season, Rolle, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, made the unlikely decision to delay his draft entry for one season and take advantage of the Rhodes Scholarship. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in exercise science in 2½ years and earning a master's degree in public administration, Rolle chose to pursue his second master's—this one in medical anthropology, a yearlong program that analyzes the social aspects of medicine. Rolle says the degree will help him once he enters the medical field—he wants to be a neurosurgeon—after his football career ends. He is one of 32 American students studying as Rhodes scholars at England's esteemed University of Oxford this fall.

[Related: Where to Start if You Want to Be a Rhodes Scholar]

"One of the [Rhodes Scholarship] interviewers asked me what I'm passionate about, and I said bringing good, quality healthcare to underserved people," Rolle said in June. "[The year at Oxford] will behoove me when I pursue my career in healthcare. I will be looking at cultures and how medicine interacts with them. One of the things I've found in talking with doctors is, when they do Doctors Without Borders and try to deliver healthcare, there's a barrier. I don't want to be that way."

One of the major factors in Rolle's Rhodes selection was his desire to work with the community. His weeklong overnight camp, the Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy at Camp Blanding in Starke, Fla., took place over the summer. The camp, which Rolle created with Florida Secretary of Children and Families George Shelton, taught 100 foster kids from Florida about physical fitness and leadership. Each child had a personal mentor.

Rolle had plenty of chances to affect the community while at Florida State, too. While studying as an undergrad, Rolle received a $4,000 grant for cancer-related research. And in conjunction with the university, he started a health and fitness education program for Seminole Tribe children in Okeechobee, Fla. It's because of those character-boosting experiences that Rolle's agent, Leigh Steinberg, believes Rolle's NFL future is bright, even with the year off to study at Oxford. Steinberg says NFL owners and general managers will fall in love with Rolle despite his absence from the major scouting events leading up to the 2010 draft.

"Myron's skill set is Leonardo da Vinci-like," Steinberg, who estimated that he has represented 10 Pro Bowl safeties, said in June. "He's an incredible role model. He's a gifted public speaker; he can write; he can play musical instruments; he can sing. It just doesn't stop. He is a once-in-a-generation human being."

Rolle, who started in 35 games and played in 38 at Florida State, faces a daunting task this school year. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound whiz kid has to maintain and improve his speed, strength, and conditioning for the NFL while pursing his studies at one of the best universities in the world. He gets six weeks off from Oxford starting in December, and he'll use that time to work out for NFL teams and show scouts that he hasn't lost a step. While in England, he's been working with a team of trainers to prepare for the upcoming NFL workouts. And before he headed to Oxford, Rolle worked out in Orlando with well-known performance trainer Tom Shaw. Time will tell if it's enough to get him selected in the first few rounds of the draft.