It was only a few months ago Emanuel McGirt's sister, Camille, introduced McGirt to Myron Rolle's story. McGirt, a talented lineman with seven BCS offers, dreams of playing in the NFL, but Camille sat McGirt down and talked of the need for a backup plan.
She had one in 2010, when an ACL tear ended her basketball career at Hampton but didn’t derail her from interning at the White House or founding her own company. However, Rolle, a former No. 1 high school recruit and All-American, had a much more public Plan B.
“She told me about Myron Rolle a couple months ago,” said McGirt, who attends Durham (N.C.) Hillside, “but I didn’t pay attention.”
That lesson registered Saturday, as McGirt’s eyes were fixated on Florida State’s junior day guest speaker. They were fixated on Rolle.
“He said don’t let football define you,” said McGirt, who has a 3.92 high school GPA. “You always hear it from someone who never played football, so it’s good to hear from someone who made it. He makes you feel comfortable to be smart and play football.”
Football has never defined Rolle, who attended a Rhodes Scholar interview and played safety for the Seminoles on the same night. So when Rolle enrolled at Florida State following a short NFL career to concentrate on neurosurgery, Jimbo Fisher approached him about speaking to prospects during recruiting weekends. Rolle “unequivocally” accepted.
“I truly support the program and ideology Coach Fisher has for the team,” Rolle said. “So anyway I can help augment the process by [FSU] being a program that not only puts players in the NFL but puts degrees in players’ hands, I’m all on board.”
Rolle was the first No. 1 high school recruit for ESPN, which began ranking prospects in 2006. A Bahamian emigrant, he landed in New Jersey and attended a prestigious prep school just three miles from Princeton University. High school classmates, many Ivy League bound, pushed Rolle to go to Stanford or Notre Dame, even nearby Princeton. Attending football factory Florida State would be selling himself short, some told him.
“They were trying to put me in a box, and I told recruits don’t let anyone take the pen and write their narrative,” Rolle said. “... [The recruits] were very perceptive, locked in and engaged, and asked great questions. [Football] is going to end for everybody ... [and] we’re all going to have to exit stage left. I had to leave the game after being No. 1 in the country, I’m an example, and it resonated.”
Derwin James Jr. was in Tallahassee on Saturday and sat in on Rolle’s 30-minute speech to recruits. The two spoke one-on-one afterward, and Rolle’s first questions were about James’ GPA and leadership qualities. Rolle was not interested in discussing the fact that James is also the country’s No. 1 safety and planning to enroll at Florida State next year.
“He’s my new role model,” James, who owns a 3.4 GPA, said. “That’s a person I see myself wanting to be like.”