On Saturday, Nov. 22, Florida State safety Myron Rolle interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship in Birmingham, AL. Like so many tests he has taken in his academic career, he aced it. One of 32 individuals in the world to do so. He then boarded a chartered jet – NCAA-approved, of course – to College Park, MD, where he went on to play in the second half of the Seminoles’ 37-3 ACC win over Maryland. He made three tackles.
A 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety, Rolle is a potential early-round NFL talent. But he’s also all-world in the brains department.
But, as so many comic book films are wont to preach, with this great power, both physical and mental, now comes a hefty responsibility. Now, Rolle has a choice to make, one that has been placed upon very few shoulders: Does he take his chances in the NFL draft, with all of the potential millions that he could make over a professional career? Or does he use the Rhodes Scholarship go to Oxford and pursue his dream of becoming – wait for it – a neurosurgeon?
There are strong arguments on both sides, arguments which Rolle says that he and his family are weighing heavily. On the one hand, Rolle could pursue the same path as Dikembe Mutombo – who, as a Georgetown grad and one-time aspiring doctor himself, is no intellectual slouch. Mutombo used the millions he made in the NBA to build a state-of-the-art hospital in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, and is renowned for his humanitarian aid and philanthropic ventures. Whole staffs of doctors can make a greater difference than one, can’t they?
But then one has to consider the rare individual that Rolle is off of the football field. He graduated pre-med from Florida State in two and a half years. As a football player. With a 3.75 GPA. That’s hard enough for a normal student to do. With a coconut like that under his helmet, Rolle has the potential to make the kinds of breakthroughs that could make a difference not only to the thousands who are helped by Mutombo’s philanthropic ventures, but to millions around the world.
So who should young Mr. Rolle turn to for advice? Surely the family that has always put academics first is a good start. But perhaps one of sport’s most celebrated everymen has something to say about the situation too. So what’s the diagnosis, Doc Graham?
Yes, Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, that Ghost of Field-of-Dreams Past. The young right fielder that played in a single major league game for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905, and never got to bat. After that one moment in the sun, he played two more years in the minor leagues before going to the University of Maryland (he completed his undergrad work at North Carolina), the same school against which Rolle played last week, he served the city of Chisolm, MN for 50 years as a doctor.
In Kevin Costner’s film adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe, the character of Doc Graham speaks a line that should be heeded by young Mr. Rolle: “Now, if I had only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, that would have been a tragedy.” Listen well, Mr. Rolle. Because if you go the route of NFL stardom – in the same league as Adam “Pacman” Jones, Terrell Owens, and Chris Henry – five minutes may be all you see of the field before an unfortunate accident ends your career for good. There go the millions. There goes the Rhodes Scholarship. There goes all of those you may have helped. All it takes is one second for a promising career, with all of its millions in possible philanthropy, to drift away in a cloud of smoke and sweat.
My advice to you, the talented Mr. Rolle, is that the mind can last forever. It can be shared and expanded; it can inspire and it can create. The body however is fragile, and can only belong to one. It cannot be expanded or enhanced and in itself, by itself, it cannot create. It cannot be shared, only appreciated aesthetically from afar. If it is broken it cannot repair itself. If it is broken, it can no longer provide.
There have been too many selfish men that have taken the money and who have basked in the bright lights of professional sports, too many who have failed spectacularly on a national – and yes, international – stage. If you can make a difference, if you can buck the trend and share your inner beauty and limitless talent and potential with the world, then by all means do it. You may not have the headlines and the adoration, but you will possess something far greater – a quiet sense of contentment, and a true sense of accomplishment. More than that, you will have shared yourself and your abilities with the world in a way that will not benefit the needs of the few, or the one. You will have helped to heal the wider world, which, in these dark times, needs a physician like you.