Best Kept Secret

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(HOST) As the 2008 college football season comes to an end, commentator Brian Porto is thinking about a young man who is a wonderful ambassador for that sport.

(PORTO) Bad news almost invariably attracts more media attention than good news, and the sports world is no exception to that. Therefore, it’s no wonder that in December, the sports pages carried many stories about the off-the-field antics of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, while largely ignoring the infinitely-more-inspiring achievements of Florida state defensive back Myron Rolle.

Burress inadvertently shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub and crashed his uninsured Mercedes-Benz automobile in Florida during the same month. Rolle, however, may be the best ambassador for college football since Byron White, the legendary Colorado running back who went on to serve for three decades on the United States Supreme Court. Soon, Myron Rolle will face the same delicious dilemma that the young Byron White faced in 1938, namely, whether to sign a lucrative professional football contract or accept a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University for graduate studies.

With all due respect to the late Justice White, Myron Rolle’s collegiate accomplishments are even more impressive than White’s were. In White’s day, college football was a seasonal obsession, and coaches largely left players to their own devices in the off-season. But in today’s era of pricey athletic scholarships and hi-tech training methods, coaches treat players like employees and expect them to train for football year round. In this environment, Myron Rolle’s academic achievements are astounding.

Rolle, who grew up in New Jersey and is the son of Bahamian immigrants, completed his pre-med requirements and earned a degree in exercise science, with a 3.75 grade-point average, in just five semesters. He is now working on a master’s degree in public administration. In his spare time, Rolle has developed a health-education curriculum to teach fifth- and sixth-graders on a Seminole Indian reservation about diabetes and obesity, served on several student committees, and represented Florida State at numerous fundraising and community events. Amidst all that, he has enjoyed great success in the pressure cooker of big-time college football and, if he chooses to enter the 2009 National Football League draft, is likely to be an early selection.

Perhaps, like Byron White before him, Myron Rolle will study at Oxford and then play pro football, using his football income to pay for further education, which, in Rolle’s case, would probably be medical school. If so, his example will teach youngsters everywhere, including young Vermonters, that an athlete can be a scholar and vice versa. Presumably, that will be the first of many contributions that Myron Rolle will make to this country. The sports world needs more ambassadors like him.

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