Florida State's studious Rolle draws double coverage at Maryland game

November 22, 2008|By DAVID STEELE | DAVID STEELE,david.steele@baltsun.com

Two significant local athletes will be rooting for different teams in tonight's pivotal Maryland-Florida State football game at Byrd Stadium. But both will be cheering on one particular player - one who might not even play.

Tom McMillen and Samari Rolle will have their attention trained on Florida State safety Myron Rolle, as will much of the college football world. Myron Rolle is likely the first player ever whose status for a game was "questionable: Rhodes scholarship interview." The timing of this final step toward attaining this prestigious post-graduate honor means the Seminoles junior (in eligibility; he already has graduated) will be getting on a private plane after the interview in Birmingham, Ala. ends at about 6 p.m. to get to the game that kicks off at 7:45.

McMillen, the former Maryland All-America basketball player and U.S. congressman, is pulling for Rolle to join the select Rhodes Scholar fraternity, and the even more select group of elite athletes within it. Samari Rolle, the Ravens' cornerback and former Florida State star - well, the last name is a good hint as to why he's so interested. The two are distant cousins (as far as they know) descended from a prominent family in the Bahamas, and Samari has been Myron's mentor since the younger Rolle's junior year in high school, back when Myron made it clear he wanted to follow Samari to Florida State.

Both McMillen - who has not met Myron Rolle but has learned a lot about him in recent weeks - and Samari Rolle share a deep-seated pride in seeing an athlete in a major revenue-producing sport, in a college sports environment that borders on being anti-academic, making such an indelible mark on the field and in the classroom.

"I think of the challenges today - every year, the candidates [for the Rhodes] get more competitive, and their resumes are unbelievable. So it's really challenging as an athlete today to match that," said McMillen, whose selection to study at Oxford came in late 1973, to commence upon his graduation with a chemistry degree in 1974.

"With the demands that are put on athletes at that level now, it's really hard to maintain that balance," he continued. "I don't know if I could play big-time basketball and be a chemistry major today."

Samari Rolle understood what a task Myron had taken on - and was well aware of the negative perception the program had in terms of the athletic-academic balance. "People put him down for going to Florida State, saying, 'You're not going to be able to do that playing there,' " he recalled.

But he also knew the standards set by their families helped make it possible. Neither Rolle is sure how they are related, but Myron contacted Samari in high school to talk about family connections and college options, and they have been extremely close since.

"I remember the first time meeting Myron," Rolle said. "I was so impressed. Most people think you can't do both. But he just studies - doesn't drink, doesn't hang out. He's just about his schoolwork. His parents have him well-grounded."

As his quest reaches its climax on the same day his team plays to stay alive for the conference championship, Rolle might have his mentor in the stands. Samari, who has never seen the younger Rolle play in person, said he would try to go, although it is the night before the Ravens play an early game against Philadelphia.

McMillen will be watching, but his rooting interest will go only so far. "I hope he gets the scholarship," he said, "but I hope Maryland wins."

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

FLORIDA STATE (7-3, 4-3 ACC) @ NO. 22 M ARYLAND (7-3, 4-2)

Tonight, 7:45 TV: ESPN Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM Line: Fla. State by 1

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