Barack Obama turned out OK, anyway, and managed to captivate and inspire as many kids as Kobe times 10. For a long time, too long actually, athletes were front and center when it came to role models for kids in poverty. It was an unhealthy relationship, not because kids should be denied their sports heroes, but because of the imbalance. It was way out of whack. These kids didn’t have many influences who wore Brooks Brothers and had an Ivy League degree and made an honest living without throwing a ball. They needed to see something else, and someone else, if only to let them know a whole other world of possibilities did exist.
For a new generation, then, it’s important to show a different type of black athlete, someone who doesn’t place his entire fate on being just an athlete, just in case sports doesn’t work out in the long run. You know, like it doesn’t for roughly 99 percent of mankind. And so I’m reassured, not just by a president who now only plays an occasional game of pickup ball, but also by someone else, who might become one of the most important black sports figures of our time.
And I bet there aren’t six kids or even three non-sports fans who ever heard of him.
He didn’t even suit up this season.
That’s fine. Myron Rolle was occupied by more important stuff the past several months. He was busy listening to lectures on microbiology and attending health care seminars and reading textbooks as thick as a Sicilian accent. He was busy studying courses I never heard of, nor can pronounce.
Rolle eventually wants to be a neurosurgeon and open a medical center in the Bahamas, where he has family roots. You might know the story, how he starred at Florida State and became one of the country’s finest defensive backs in 2008. And was even better in the classroom. And became a Rhodes scholar, just like one of his mentors, Bill Bradley. And decided to skip the 2009 NFL draft to study abroad, delaying his pro football career by a year and costing himself quite a few dollars.
“It was an easy decision,” he said recently.
Rolle is important because he shatters all stereotypes of athletes, especially black athletes. He studied at a prestigious prep school in New Jersey yet was widely considered one of the top players in the country. He balanced the rigors of major college football and the classroom, where he didn’t exactly major in Microfootballogy. And his vision, at an early age, was larger than sports. He saw his “Rolle” in society as something greater and more important than entertaining folks on fall Sundays.
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