- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

MOBILE, Ala. | Myron Rolle has a pretty impressive Plan B if football doesn’t work out.

The former Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar is back from a year of studying at Oxford University, joining a gathering of fellow NFL hopefuls in trying to improve his draft stock and hone his skills at Saturday’s Senior Bowl.

He doesn’t need to run faster or hit harder to stand out from his peers, though it couldn’t hurt. A masters degree in medical anthropology from Oxford would be an eye-catcher at any kind of job fair.

Rolle speaks passionately and thoughtfully about his plans to one day open a medical clinic for the needy in the Bahamas, but being a football player again is nice, too.

“I like being yelled at,” he said. “I like the pads popping. I like the smell of the grass. I’ve never had this many scouts and people around the field before. That’s been different.

“Once you’re playing football again, you’re playing football,” Rolle added. “That’s the most important thing.”

Rolle, who completed his undergraduate degree in premed in 2 years, famously put off an NFL career for a year after winning the Rhodes Scholarship. He returned in mid-December to start preparing for the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine.

Chances are, he’ll be the only player in the game who stayed in shape by playing rugby.

Rolle went through two-hour workouts with his brother McKinley while in England using a regimen designed by Orlando, Fla.-based trainer Tom Shaw. He then boosted his conditioning by practicing with Oxford’s Varsity Blues rugby team.

And in his spare time? Rolle attended class two days a week and wrote weekly 2,000-word essays that were critiqued by a professor.

“I had my essay broken down word for word, paragraph for paragraph, by these teachers,” Rolle said. “I really had to defend my personal ideology on some of these things I was writing about. It was a different sort of learning. It was much different for me, but I enjoyed it and I learned a lot.”

Maybe it also prepared him for the sort of scrutiny all the NFL prospects endure, from having their every move scrutinized on the field to team questionnaires and endless interviews with team officials.

“You have to look in the eyes of your teacher — I guess he’d be your opponent if you’re on a football field — and really just sell your strengths, believe and have confidence in your own abilities and what you’re passionate about. That’s very important. That goes a long way,” Rolle said. “I think it helps not only in the classroom but also on the field.”

He said muscle memory took over quickly once practice began on Monday, despite taking a year off football.

“I’m ready to backpedal, I’m ready to break, I’m ready to hit someone,” Rolle said. “I’m ready to do all those things. As soon as I did it once, I was OK.”

He’s also back to being one of the guys instead of being surrounded by classmates from countries like Britain, China, Korea and Australia. And back to where Florida State-Miami is the big rivalry, not Oxford-Cambridge, and where touchdowns have nothing to do with planes landing.

He said some students nicknamed him “Little Pete” after Heisman Trophy-winning Rhodes Scholar Pete Dawkins, and they were bemused by the attention he received from reporters.

“They see these cameras following me, and they’re not really sure why,” Rolle said. “But I just tried to explain to them that (football is) a great sport. It’s a little more confusing than you think. But I think if you go to America, you understand why Americans love this sport.”

He certainly missed it during his time at Oxford. Rolle was thousands of miles away when his former teammates were dealing with a 7-6 season and the retirement of coach Bobby Bowden and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

“I wanted to be a part of that last go-around for those coaches,” Rolle said. “I saw the way our team competed this year and played, and we underachieved. We definitely underachieved. Now I’m back, and I feel good about being out here again.”

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