A football player with a higher calling

How's this for a holiday story: one that combines the spirit of giving, selflessness and generosity with … football!

You've got to love such a story. And this one comes to us courtesy of an extraordinary young man named Myron Rolle.

As a high schooler in New Jersey, Mr. Rolle was a standout on the football field, earning All-American honors. He was also a standout in the classroom, where his 4.0 grade point average earned him academic All-American honors as well. (Mr. Rolle wasn't just a standout on the football field and in the classroom; he may well be the only black student to have played the lead in a high school production of the play “Fiddler on the Roof.”)

Mr. Rolle went on to a stellar college career at Florida State University, where he earned a 3.75 GPA, graduated in three years and was all set to make millions after entering the 2009 National Football League draft.

But a funny thing happened to Myron Rolle on his way to NFL riches: He took a detour to, of all places, England.

Rolle applied for, and was awarded, a Rhodes scholarship. He's studying medical anthropology for a year in hopes of getting a master's degree, which he hopes will lead him to his ultimate goal. And if you think that's being an All-Pro in the NFL, you're sadly mistaken.

This young man wants to be a neurosurgeon and open a free health clinic for the poor. If you're thinking you may have read that before, you're probably right.

In December of 2007, Sports Illustrated published a story about those remarkable folks with the last name of Rolle and their forebears in the Bahamas islands called the Exumas.

Myron Rolle is first mentioned in that story in a quote from then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:

“Myron Rolle is a fantastic scholar-athlete from New Jersey who was recruited by Florida State University. He's going to be a great football player. And more importantly, he's probably going to be a Rhodes scholar. He wants to go to FSU medical school. He's a remarkable young man.”

Mr. Rolle is also quoted in the story, talking about his post-NFL plans:

“I feel that with the talents God has given me and the things I've been able to accomplish, I could do more. I feel I can influence society.

“In Princeton you've got a lot of kids who are spoiled because they have everything given to them, and then you go to the Bahamas where people are just happy to be living, to have clothes on their back. That's why I'll continue to work hard in the classroom and on the field, so I can set myself up for the future and go back and help those people who I feel need it — and who helped me.”

Myron Rolle has made several trips to the Bahamas, where, in the 1830s, an English slave owner with the last name of Rolle supposedly left all his property to his freed slaves after slavery was abolished in the British empire. Many of the Rolles in the United States feel they are descendants of those slaves, and many suspect they may be distant cousins.

Samari Rolle and Antrel Rolle were mentioned in the story. At the time it was written, Samari Rolle was a defensive back with the Baltimore Ravens and Antrel Rolle a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals. Myron Rolle, who may or may not be their distant cousin, will join them as yet another NFL defensive back with the last name Rolle.

But was passing on the NFL draft to become a Rhodes scholar a smart move, financially? Some claimed Myron Rolle may have given up as much as $8 million by not entering the 2009 draft, but Lee Hawkins, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said in an online documentary entitled “The Marketing of Scholar-Athlete Myron Rolle” that the aspiring neurosurgeon and football star “already has one corporate endorsement before playing even a minute of NFL football. His agents are using his status as a Rhodes scholar as the central selling point in their pitch to companies.”

And, Hawkins makes clear in the documentary, Myron Rolle could make almost as much money by being just a neurosurgeon as he could by playing in the NFL and then becoming a neurosurgeon.

You can link to the documentary by visiting http://online.wsj.com/video/the-marketing-of-scholarathlete-myron-rolle. View it while you can. It will be a welcome relief from watching the likes of Michael Vick.

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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