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Friday, September 02, 2005

Top HS Football Recruit Picks Florida State

Myron Rolle, ESPN's top-rated HS football recruit and a DB at The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey, has chosen Florida State.

Rolle made the announcement live on some of ESPN's channels, and he cited that Florida State offered him the best combination of academics and football and that academics played a very important part in his decision. The linked article quotes Rolle as desiring to major in pre-med courses and graduate in three years. Rolle chose Florida State over, among others, Michigan and Penn State.

Myron Rolle is, of course, 18 years old.

I have read articles about him in papers near where I live and in national magazines, and by all accounts he's a wonderful kid with the right priorities. Bobby Bowden has landed an outstanding young man, and I wish both coach and player all the best.

I do have my doubts that Florida State offers the best possible academics in combination with football and would argue that schools such as Michigan, Virginia and Cal among others, would offer better combinations, although UVA and Cal don't figure into the national championship conversation as much as say Michigan and Florida State. I also have my doubts that Rolle can graduate in three years carrying a pre-med load.

Playing football at a high-caliber Division 1-A program is a big responsibility, almost like having a full-time job. Graduating from a huge school in four years isn't that easy for the average college student (the published data on the NCAA website indicates that FSU's graduation rate for student-athletes roughly matches the graduation rate for all students -- about 62%). In contrast, schools better known for their graduation rates (and, to some degree -- sometimes small, sometimes large -- better academics) have higher graduation rates -- Michigan (about 75%), Penn State (about 83%), and Virginia (about 83%). While I think it can safely be argued that Texas offers better academics than Florida State, the Longhorns' graduation rate for athletes is lower (at about 57%). Then again, had Rolle put academics well ahead of football, and assuming that he had the grades and scores to qualify, he could have gone north on Route 206 a bit to Princeton University, whose graduation rate for all students is an eye-popping 97%. Unfortunately for the 1-AA Tigers, the quality of football played in Tigertown is far less robust than the school's graduation rate.

To his credit, Myron Rolle appears to be seeing the best of both worlds, and he's thinking of life beyond football. Some old-time football tough guys would say that a goal of being a doctor would be a distraction and help Rolle lose his focus from becoming the best DB he can be, which is why, presumably, he chose FSU, which has among its football alums Deion Sanders. Others would say that he picked the right school to do both, because presumably the academic competition at FSU might not be as tough as at a place like Michigan. The key thing will be whether he gets the support to come to practice late if he needs to attend an afternoon chemistry or biology lab, and how the coaches really feel about it.

You may recall one-time Vikings' RB Robert Smith, the one-time standout at Ohio State, who st out a season after squabbling with a Buckeyes' assistant about his class schedule. (Smith presents a nice contrast to the most recent big-name back at OSU, Maurice Clarett, for whom going to class seemed to be an imposition on his priorities). Smith ended up leaving school early to play in the NFL, and then he retired at the relatively young age of 29 to move on to the next chapter in his life. Smith, in a way, did it all, although I don't know now if he's currently in med school or doing something else. (You may also recall one-time Ohio State and 49er tight end John Frank, who retired before his skills gave out to enroll in medical school -- Frank played on some of the great Joe Montana-led teams).

Myron Rolle has unique gifts, most notably on the football field. You can't blame a teenaged gymnast for moving to Houston to work with a Carolyi or a HS tennis player for moving into Nick Bolletieri's academy in Florida to maximize her unique talents, and you can't blame a HS kid from going to the place that will give him the best shot to play DB for serious money some day. If he were my kid with that type of talent, I would have counseled him on doing what he did -- find the best combination for him and a place that would support all of his goals. For this kid, playing football at Duke, Vanderbilt or Rice, not to mention Stanford or Northwestern, just wouldn't have cut it.

Even then, I might have tried to nudge him toward UVA or Michigan just a bit.


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