How Dare NFL Teams Question Myron Rolle's Commitment to Football?
4/27/2010 1:15 PM ET By Clay Travis
On Saturday, the Tennessee Titans drafted Florida State safety Myron Rolle in the sixth round of the NFL Draft with the 207th overall pick.
Rolle, whom you previously knew as the Rhodes Scholar who spent his past season in Oxford studying for a graduate degree in medical anthropology, graduated in 2 1/2 years from Florida State, where he played safety for three years. Then he chose to skip his senior year to take advantage of the Rhodes Scholarship, an honor that only 32 men and women garner every year.
You've probably heard of a few of the alums from the Rhodes, guys like President Bill Clinton and former NBA great Bill Bradley.
What you may have heard and brushed off was this: Multiple NFL teams, scouts and executives questioned Rolle's commitment to football because he made this decision.
Because the thinking goes -- and we're defining "thinking" broadly here since many of the scouts, coaches and executives making these comments would be pumping gas for a living without football -- that Rolle is too smart, that his priorities in life don't revolve entirely around a pigskin bouncing on a field.
Welcome to the 21st century NFL, where your commitment to the game doesn't get questioned if you fail multiple drug tests, drive drunk or rape a woman. But woe unto you if you have the audacity to graduate early from college and take a year off to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship. Then you're a smart guy, the NFL's own version of the untouchable caste in India. That's why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including head coach Raheem Morris, could ask Rolle at the Senior Bowl how it felt to desert his teammates for his senior season.
Accepting the Rhodes Scholarship in Oxford.
If only we could all be so lucky to be deserted by our teammates for this.
Would the Tampa Bay Bucs "brain trust" have asked a player who left college early to play pro football how he felt about deserting his teammates?
Would the Bucs have asked a player who was caught smoking pot how he felt about letting his teammates down?
Nope, because Rolle wears the NFL's own scarlet letter, intelligence. And that's just something the NFL can't stand. The league wants their players focused on football or nothing else, barefoot and padded.
Rolle came on our Nashville radio show Monday and in between answering questions about American health care policy, the medical clinic he plans to build in the Bahamas, his love for football, and hanging with President Bill Clinton, he addressed the question of how having his commitment to football questioned made him feel. (Listen to that entire interview here.)
Here's an excerpt:
"I was very surprised. I had anticipated I would get some questions. ... but I didn't expect it to be as big, or as huge of an issue in the whole scheme of the draft process. ...The only thing I can say or try to convey is that I have a lot of options, I do, and I'm very proud I won the Rhodes Scholarship. Medical school will be in my future 15 years from now, Lord willing ... and being a politician is not out out of the question either. But if I have all these options and I still choose to play football, that must mean that I really love it. ... I really do want it, and I have to show it."
That answer isn't good enough for the NFL.
What's more, in an even larger indictment of our society, that answer isn't good enough for football fans, either.
Because think about this for a minute: I haven't read one iota of criticism of NFL teams, scouts, or analysts who questioned Myron Rolle's commitment to the NFL for embracing something larger than football and seeking opportunities outside the game.
We should all be insulted, anyone who has ever played, coached, or watched a football game, that the highest level of the sport devalues intelligence to such a degree that coded language like "commitment" knocks you down several rounds.
Because let's be clear, what NFL people are really saying when they question Rolle's commitment is, he's too intelligent for the game. And personally, I can't tell you how pissed off that makes me. Not that a scout or coach or general manager would say this, but that it would go unchallenged in our society today. That NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is so intent on protecting the shield, yet won't come out and rip coaches and executives who make these comments about Rolle. Have we really reached a level of NFL football where you get knocked further down the draft board for being a Rhodes Scholar than you do for being arrested?
I think so.
And if we have, doesn't that mean that we've broken the fundamental rule of sports, the rule that I was taught, that you were hopefully taught, and that one day I'll teach my own sons? That rule is simple: Use the ball, don't let the ball use you.
How did kids react when they watched the draft, saw Myron Rolle celebrating, and immediately heard draft analysts discussing his fall down the draft boards because teams questioned his commitment? I'll tell you, kids aren't dumb, they know what that means. That when their coaches preach academics and exploring outside interests, that's really just a shell game. The reality is something different: we want you to care about nothing else at all.
All too often in American sports today the ball uses the athlete. We see it in the one-and-done rule of the NBA that threatens the very fiber of college basketball. We see it in the number of football players who leave college after four years and test sub-literate on the Wonderlic. How is it possible that someone could stay eligible on a college campus for four years and not have a test score high enough to be employed as a janitor?
And they have a college diploma!
We see it in the NFL, where league owners want dumb players so they can make more money than any other professional sports league while failing to guarantee employment to their players for more than one year at a time. Dumb players equal a dumb union. And a dumb union equals more money.
The NFL doesn't want thinkers, it wants big, dumb idiots who think nothing of the future. It wants to ensure the ball uses them, it's more profitable that way.
Reading, writing and 'rithmetic?
That's for nerds! (Yeah, like the nerds who own the teams.)
Yet, we wonder why so many of these athletes given the opportunity to take advantage of the options presented by their skill with a ball never amount to anything once that ball is taken away from them. We act surprised when athletes flounder post-career .
It's because of this, the same mindset that can question how an athlete can have the audacity to graduate in five semesters of college and pursue a Rhodes Scholarship, yet not question an athlete leaving school early without the ability to read his own professional contract.
Nope, we don't red flag the lack of intelligence.
That means the player is "committed" to his sport. He's committed because he's too damn fool stupid to do anything else.
And then we question the players, like Myron Rolle, who truly use the ball to make something better of themselves.
Even for the most successful sporting careers in the world, 99.9999999 percent of them are over by the time an athlete reaches his early 30's. After all, as my radio show co-host Blaine Bishop constantly says on-air, "You know what the NFL stands for, right? Not For Long."
Myron Rolle might be a doctor or a congressman.
Most of the athletes we root for on the field won't be anything else at all.
Just as the NFL prefers.
How Dare NFL Teams Question Myron Rolle's Commitment to Football? -- NFL FanHouse