No one has ever confused Myron Rolle for an average college student. For one thing, the 6'2" safety at Florida State has NFL scouts drooling; for another, he's already earned his pre-med degree in two-and-a-half years. But his itinerary last weekend was particularly extraordinary. On Nov. 22, the Seminoles' safety jetted off to Birmingham, Ala., where he sat for a final interview for the Rhodes Scholarship, generally viewed as the country's most prestigious. After learning he was one of the 32 student-athletes in the country to earn the honor and with it, two years of study at England's vaunted Oxford University Rolle flew to College Park, Md., joined his teammates late in the second quarter and helped Florida State to a pivotal win over the Maryland. TIME caught up with Rolle to discuss his jam-packed schedule, his inspirations, and whether he'll opt for the NFL or Oxford.
You've gone a long way toward dispelling the myth that there's no such thing as a genuine student-athlete. How do you balance athletics and academics?
The focus on academics and athletics started in grade school. My parents always put a high premium on academics, and I was always good at athletics. For high school, I went to the Hun School in Princeton, N.J., which is a very challenging boarding school, where I got more practice at balancing the two. At Florida State, I really wanted to test my mettle as a student-athlete, and I did that by competing for a starting position early in my freshman year, but also by taking pre-med classes, getting involved in the community [Rolle started a program aimed at teaching local Seminole Indian children the benefits of health], being in a fraternity, and eventually having the opportunity to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship. The balance of being a student-athlete has been a life-long process.
Can you walk me through your typical daily schedule?
Usually I wake up by 8 a.m. or so and go stretch. I do a little homework in the morning, when my mind is fresh. Then I go to class, and study between classes so I can get it out of the way. In the afternoon, I go to the trainer's room, get treatment, and practice from about 2:15 to 6:30. After that I eat, shower and finish up my studying. At night I spend about 30 minutes talking to my brother, McKinley, who's someone I confide in. I usually go to sleep around 11:30 p.m. or midnight after relaxing with some "Sopranos" or "SportsCenter." It seems like a packed, loaded day, but it's become routine.
How have your teammates reacted to your pursuit of the Rhodes?
I was so excited by how my teammates responded. All week, they were telling me "Good luck, we hope you get it." I know for a fact they don't know what the Rhodes Scholarship is. They don't have any idea where you study, or what you study. It's not a bad thing; they've never been exposed to it. But the fact that they were really behind me and supported me meant a lot. On Thursday, before I traveled to Birmingham for my Rhodes interview, they got me in the huddle and they all put their hands on me and prayed for me, prayed for my safety and that I would let me personality shine through in the interview. During the day while getting ready for the interview, I was getting text messages from my teammates asking how it was going. They even spelled Rhodes wrong; they spelled it "Roads." Again, they had no idea, but they were just so supportive. When I got to the game after winning, they dumped water on me in a cold ice bath in 20 degree weather at Maryland, just to express their joy. It meant a lot.