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From the Sidelines: FSU safety a fitting Rolle model

The stigma surrounding high-profile football players has been around for years.

Undoubtedly, the antics of players like Adam Jones, Michael Vick and Ray Carruth have done little to help ease the stereotype.

The simple truth is that, whether we like it or not, we live in a society that indiscriminately paints an entire group with the same brush.

In such cases, there inevitably comes that one situation that defies stereotypes, forcing all to step back and reevaluate a previously firm stance.

That defiance manifested itself this year in the form of Florida State safety Myron Rolle.

His name, long known in football circles, became more recognizable on Nov. 22 when he grabbed national headlines by interviewing in Birmingham as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship before catching a plane and flying to College Park, Md., to join the Seminoles for the second half of a 37-3 romp over Atlantic Coast Conference foe Maryland.

News broke later in the weekend that Rolle, a pre-med student who graduated in five semesters, had been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship.

As remarkable as the story was, the success created a dilemma for Rolle, who faced the decision between realizing a lifelong academic dream of studying at esteemed Oxford University or pursuing his desire to play in the NFL.

Most draft analysts have projected Rolle, regarded by many as the best athlete in his recruiting class, as a surefire first-day draft pick. Some projecters have listed the 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety with the 4.5 time over 40 yards as a first-round pick. That translates to millions of dollars for Rolle.

But the story took a whole new turn Tuesday when the man who redefines “dual threat” announced his decision to forgo not only his senior season of eligibility at Florida State, but his opportunity to take the guaranteed millions of the NFL.

Yep. That’s right. Myron Rolle bucked the trend and the majority when he made known his intentions to enroll at Oxford in the fall.

Reports are that Rolle will seek to enter the 2010 NFL Draft.

The feeling regarding Rolle’s decision likely depends on perspective. One school of thought would mandate taking the guaranteed money and pursuing a graduate degree later. The other understands the doors opened by an opportunity such as the one Rolle has accepted.

Rolle’s situation is refreshing on so many levels.

His accomplishment exhibits a discipline and determination that has become increasingly rare in a culture often satisfied with mediocrity. Moreover, his decision reflects the values of a seemingly endangered minority that esteems intangibles such as knowledge over quantifiable assets like money.

Perhaps more than anything, Rolle’s achievement underscores a fundamental truth that coaches of all sports at all levels have long attempted to ingrain in the minds of their players.

Simply put: Hard work opens doors.

Rolle, whose parents migrated to the U.S. from the Bahamas, has displayed that it is possible to balance the demands placed on a major college football player while still excelling academically in one of the most demanding majors available. And he did it all on an accelerated track that saw him finish a four-year degree in less than three. That’s pretty impressive.

Add to it all the fact that he spent six weeks studying abroad, was inducted into the National Leadership Honor Society, received a $40,000 research grant for his work studying human mesenchymal stem cells and served as the facilitator of a health and living program at a charter school run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and you have the sum total of years of dedication.

So, while his intentions likely had little to do with setting examples and serving as a role model, Myron Rolle has — unwittingly or otherwise — emerged as an ideal candidate to serve as the face of a sport that often grabs headlines for all the wrong reasons.