Balancing The Books And The Gridiron

Likely the coolest story of the week that isn’t Padraig Harrington winning back-to-back British Opens here. If you read Sports Illustrated with any regularity, you probably remember the article a few months back chronicling all the members of the Rolle family, with its roots in Bahama and contributions to athletics.

Now, the latest member of the family to make the college football ranks is Myron Rolle, a junior at Florida State University and a hard-hitting safety. Barring any sort of slouch or complete drop-off, he’s expected to be a frist-round pick when the 2009 NFL Draft rolls around (joining his cousin Samari). And that’s all fine and good, except for the fact that Rolle could face a more difficult decision: first-round selection or Rhodes Scholarship?

It’s probably a lovely dilemma to have, and Rolle’s worked hard for it as a pre-med student with a 3.75 GPA. Now, it’s likely that he’ll be nominated to join the running for Rhodes Scholar status. And with all the stuff he goes through just to excel in both academics and football, the application process is harsh.

The application process is extensive. Rolle must write a personal-statement about his life aspirations, interview with the nominating committee and provide eight letters of recommendation — and that’s just to gain entry to the competition. Assuming FSU nominates him, Rolle would then enter one of 16 regional competitions against fellow candidates from Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. Students often compete in their hometown’s region rather than their school’s, and, not coincidentally, the field is usually dominated by Ivy League and other private schools. (Only seven of last year’s 32 winners came from so-called “state schools.”)

Rolle is determined to make his application stand out — so much so that he’s contacted intermediaries about potential recommendation letters from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Florida governor Charlie Crist.

There’s another football player applying with him — UCLA O-lineman Chris Joseph — but Rolle is the sole applicant who’s also stated he plans to play in the NFL. The last athlete to do this was USC QB Pat Haden, back in the 70s, who split his time as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford for half the year and with the L.A. Rams for the other.

Writer Stewart Mandel is probably right when he writes that no current NFL team would allow Rolle a similar arrangement, but let’s hope Rolle is lucky and good enough to have to make the decision in the first place.

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