ORLANDO, Fla. – Myron Rolle came to the right place to turn his oversized dreams into reality.
Disney World, the place that proudly proclaims at its gates that it's "where dreams come true," has become the backdrop for a 22-year-old man who thinks at once of being a great football player and a neurosurgeon.
Yes, at once. Most people would be happy to be just one in their lifetime. For Rolle, his desires run on a dual track.
Such an instance took place Tuesday when Rolle spent two hours training under a high blue Florida sky complete with the typically hot sun that sends Coppertone stock prices soaring. By Rolle's side is Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes(notes), who is still living off his own dream come true from February's game-winning TD catch. Both of them take direction from trainer Tom Shaw.
But where Holmes will eventually head back to Pittsburgh to resume his football career, Rolle is putting that part of his life on hold. He's heading to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in September as he takes a year away from the game to chase the neurosurgeon gig. Even as Rolle keeps himself in shape these days, hoping to maintain his status as a first- or second-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft, he has made the medical gig a high priority as well. After a day of training, Rolle has spent afternoons shadowing orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brad Homan at nearby Celebration Hospital. He has gone on rounds and even observed Homan in the operating room.
"I didn't set that up for Myron," said Shaw, one of the best-known trainers with a client list featuring the likes of Deion Sanders and Michael Vick(notes). "He did that on his own because he wanted to. Most of the guys I have here, they want to go test drive a car at Richard Petty's track or go fishing or get on the golf course when they're done working out. Myron spends his afternoon thinking about what he's going to do next with his life.
"You're not talking about somebody who is just driven. You're talking about somebody who is truly special, the kind of person who becomes a president or a world leader … he's different."
In his spare time, Rolle goes on speaking engagements around the country and has worked on developing health programs. This Friday, he's heading to Madison, Wis., to speak to high school kids. Next week, he's heading to the Bahamas, where his parents and three of his four brothers were born, to work on a long-term healthcare project.
A week after that, he's doing a leadership and fitness program for 100 children at Camp Blanding in Starke. Then he heads back to the Bahamas.
"We're not in any place for too long," said McKinley, Rolle's older brother who manages Myron's busy schedule.
Rolle accepts that fact with a minimal fight. Yeah, he's smart and he's not going to pretend otherwise. At the same, he's not lording his intelligence over anyone and he doesn't want to be defined by intellect.
"When I was at Florida State, they played up how I was really smart, this brainiac-type of guy, and that was fine," said Rolle, who graduated from FSU in 2 ½ years as a pre-med student. "But it's like they would talk about how smart I am and then that was it. I'm thinking to myself, 'I don't want to just be great in that. I want to be known as a great football player, too.' "
Rolle has the physical tools for the NFL. Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who has spent 25 years at the school, said last season after playing Miami that Rolle played the most complete game at safety that Andrews had ever seen at FSU. Early in Rolle's career, Andrews compared Rolle to Sanders in terms of the ability to pick up the nuances of the game. Rolle did that all while balancing the athletic-academic equation the way Einstein worked out E, M and C.
Now, he's taking the balancing act to a different level and a different country.
While studying for his masters in medical anthropology in Oxford, Rolle plans to work out to maintain his standing in the NFL. In December, he will get a six-week break to return to the United States. That's when he plans to work out for NFL scouts, coaches and executives in advance of the draft. To be ready, there's no time off, no wasted moment.
This is the Rolle family philosophy, a combination of respect and drive. Mother Beverly, who moved to Tallahassee at her son's request for college, was strict about order and approach. Her sons address everyone, even each other, with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir."
"If someone asked a question, there was never any of them saying, 'What?' to each other. There's a proper way to do things," Beverly said. If she drove the boys around, the eldest one of the group always sat in the front seat. It was a privilege that also created a pecking order of who was to be followed if she or her husband weren't around.
Father Whitney set similar examples, asking the boys questions when they drove around instead of letting time simply slip away.
"Idle minds get into a lot of trouble," said Beverly Rolle, whose other children include a banker, a lawyer and a nursing student. Myron not only got a 4.0 in high school, but also he was offered a scholarship to an acting school in New York after a prep career that included an inspired effort as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."
All of this is deserving of the highest admiration. Rolle's life is a picture of accomplishment. Between the athlete and doctor aspirations, you can put him on the list of the 50 most eligible bachelors in the world already.
Plenty of women have already taken notice.
"Yeah, there are plenty of them around," Beverly said, the motherly suspicion dripping from every syllable.
Then again, fitting in a personal life with everything else seems just a bit over the top for Rolle right now. Like his father, Rolle wakes up intrinsically knowing everything that he needs to do and how long it will take.
"He's the most disciplined person I've ever seen like that," McKinley said, mentioning that his brother doesn't eat fast food, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke and doesn't waste time.
Still, you'd have to think that something has to give somewhere along the line. By Rolle's own assessment, he's not some "alien super-being" that some people seem to view him as from a distance. He has noticed people being downright intimidated when they talk to him.
While Rolle is special, he's still human. He still enjoys a good weekend on South Beach, looking at the women, the cars and the bling. No one would blame him right now if he passed on the Oxford gig to chase the NFL right now.
"Yeah, that stuff is nice and it's fun to look at for a weekend, but then you put that away and get back to real life," Rolle said.
Still, you keep looking for something else in this dream to give. The doctor-football player idea sounds cool, but it's a pretty tough reality to pull off.
"It didn't for Bill Bradley," Rolle said, mentioning the former Rhodes Scholar, NBA player and politician who Rolle admires above all others. Rolle went to high school in Princeton, N.J., where Bradley went to college. "That's the person that I look up to, the icon of what I'm talking about."
Rolle says that in all seriousness, without even a hint of bravado or arrogance. This is what he has always wanted, what he intended even before he signed with Florida State. When he went on recruiting trips, he didn't just talk to coaches about his football aspirations, he talked to counselors, professors and school presidents to make sure everyone was well aware of his plans.
"Everybody had to be on board with what I wanted. They had to know what I wanted and what they were signing up for," he said.
This is how you make dreams come true.
- Myron Rolle