This irritates me

Most of you know of Myron Rolle, the former FSU safety turned Rhodes Scholar who is now waiting to see where he will be drafted. As I’ve discussed previously, I’m a big fan of Rolle’s and I think he’s an incredible model for younger players, and, while it’s difficult to judge someone’s athletic ability to play in the pros, I have no doubts that his character and background are assets. People in the NFL, however, seem to disagree:

Welcome to proof of the NFL adage: You want players to be smart, just not too smart. Rolle is an example of a gifted, driven, accomplished young man. He’s a guy who could survive and thrive without playing mankind’s version of demolition derby.

Rolle is a man with options and that makes NFL types, some of whom would be teaching P.E. in high school if not for the pro game, very uneasy.

“We’ll have to find out how committed he is,” an NFC assistant coach said, echoing the sentiment of five other NFL types leading up to this weekend’s scouting combine. “Committed” is a euphemism for desire, care, passion and whatever other combination of emotions goes into wanting to play football enough to make it a career.

Trainer Tom Shaw, who has worked with Rolle for the past year, understands the process very well. Having trained the likes of Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Deion Sanders, a total of 118 former first-round picks and nine straight Super Bowl Most Valuable Players before this year, Shaw hears the criticism and shakes his head.

“I hear all the negative things that he has too many things going on in his life,” Shaw said. “But if [the NFL] is saying that Myron Rolle is a bad example, that’s a joke. … Myron is what you want all these kids to be. Every one of these kids should want to be Myron Rolle. . . .

. . . During a 45-minute interview before the Senior Bowl in January with seven members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, including head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik, one member of the staff asked Rolle what it felt like to desert his team this season.

“I hadn’t heard that one before,” said Rolle, who pauses ever so slightly before answering to consider his thoughts. “My initial reaction was a bit of confusion. It never was anger, but I was more bothered by the question because if anyone knew my involvement with my teammates, how much they care about me and how much I care about them.”

My initial reaction to this — which might be unfair — is that asking Rolle about “deserting” his teammates is something only someone who could not comprehend the significance of a Rhodes Scholarship would do. Small minded, in other words. But maybe it’s a fair question: the NFL is not looking for men of character and robust interests to staff a consulting firm or business or whatever else, but is instead looking for man-machines who will obey orders and sacrifice their bodies for the paycheck and the glory; someone with other options might not think it was such a great bargain.

So what’s the answer? Is the NFL insular and closed minded, or are they just coldly looking out for their interests, or both?

  • Great post. I’m new to your site, so will def bookmark, but regarding the NFL, yes, it’s all about the macho man-machine. Who can best accept and execute a kill order and then dutifully return for the next assignment? We’ve been saying, “Oh, pro sports have become big business these days” for 15 years. It’s no longer a case of sports having “become” big business. They ARE big business, and anyone who doesn’t eat, drink, sleep and inject football 24/7 isn’t a true football man. It’s a sad statement about pro sports, however, that no other arena or industry would frown upon the role-model potential of a young man as psychologically and intellectually healthy as Rolle, not to mention athletically.

  • DrB

    I agree. I think the question has no place being asked. He had his priorities in order taking that scholarship, and for them to say they want well-rounded and intelligent men and then have questions about his commitment is quite two-faced.

  • Chris

    I think part of it is just trying to see how the player reacts to such an offensive question. I heard a story where a team representative asked a combine participant what he’d do if the rep stood up and punched him in the face. The player hesitated before answering, failing the question.

    The staff member may not care about the specific answer or even believe Rolle “deserted his teammates,” but wanted to see how he handled it.

    Or I could just be over-thinking the whole thing.

  • Homyrrh

    Yeah, I think your subsequent comment is the most likely reason that Bucs employee asked. Just imagine the number of possible responses Rolle could have given, especially in comparison to some of the other wacky, albeit softball, Combine questions he may have been asked about whether he’d like to be a cat or dog, what type of tree he’d like to be, etc. Instead, with such a wide open OEQ like this, he could’ve shown physically that he’d taken offense, dismissed the question (“Abandoned my team? I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”), acknowledged it, apologized, explained how exclusive a Rhodes Scholarship is (perhaps even compared to the NFL), etc.

  • billsfan

    Closed-minded people will certainly act that way, but it seems as though a well-managed and successful franchise could find a place for him.

  • Not that it was a bad comment (indeed, I actually thought the same thing though I didn’t post it), I (as in, the Chris who runs the site) didn’t post the comment by “Chris” above.

  • RJC

    Often times the teams ask questions in those interviews to see the player’s reaction. Its possible the TB organization believes he abandoned his team, but I doubt it. Everyone looks out for themselves in the NFL, they wouldn’t expect any different from Rolle.
    Seeing his reaction to a hostile question was most likely the intent.

  • Tyler

    I could never coach in the NFL. It’s far too cold of a business for me to ever consider (not that they’d want me.) The college game is much warmer and personal than the League. Being able to recruit and know your players is much more rewarding than the pure football aspect of the NFL, regardless of the supposed superiority of the game.

  • Steve F

    Isn’t the negativity just part of the draft game? Knock on a guy, hope he falls a bit, and then you can get him “cheaper.”

    Kudos to Mr. Rolle. Can you imagine some slappy-McGee coach asking the same question to Bryon “Whizzer” White?

  • I think this is part of the NFL culture. I recall watching one of ESPN’s annual feature stories on the Wonderlic years ago. They discussed the the average scores and how they vary widely by position, with defensive linemen usually scoring near the bottom of the bunch, only slightly ahead of cornerbacks and running backs.

    They interviewed a few different people about it, who all appeared to agree that it was actually a NEGATIVE for a defensive lineman to score well on the Wonderlic. The quote that still sticks in my mind was from Carmen Policy, who was the GM of the 49ers at the time. Policy’s words were “We don’t want someone who is going to be contemplating Shakespeare out there instead of rushing the QB.”

    Other coaches and execs were quoted as saying that very high intelligence was actually undesirable in players because they felt it made them more prone to questioning their bosses.

    I couldn’t help but think how incredibly ignorant and foolish this was, especially coming from one of the NFL’s premiere executives at the time. It seems like that mindset is still alive and well in the NFL.

    Rolle looks like a great role model and is about as ideal a student-athlete as you could hope for. I wish him well, but if NFL execs are intimidated by his intelligence and the fact that there’s more to him than football, then the league doesn’t deserve him.

  • The interview question was in greatest likelihood one of those surprise questions that they spring to gauge the composure of a prospect. So I would gamble that you are correct on the “how does he handle it” line. (The most ridiculous question asked this year was “g-string or jock strap?”)

    Nevertheless, there is some mild substance to the aversion of overachievers off the field/academically etc. to the extent that classroom “intelligence” is not something to be seriously valued even for stereotypically “smart” positions such as QB or OL. The intuitive assumption, I suppose, for executives is that there must be a trade-off somewhere.

    A primitive barometer of “intelligence” would be the Wonderlic; and one would, I sense, be surprised to find out that Peyton Manning achieved only a sub-30 mark on such a simple test. However, there is hardly anything concerning with this lack of academic aptitude because Manning is a football nerd (literally the only thing he cares about, or so the media would have us believe). Once a blue moon, a QB who appears all-round brilliant (i.e. Alex Smith) comes along, the results often tend to be less than spectacular.

    Though the above isn’t an argument, how a player allocates his time and expends his energies on non-football pursuits is something quite unrelated to character. Myron Rolle wants to be a surgeon and Pacman Jones wanted to party it up, yet the only character that matters is what is exhibited on the playing field (something perhaps strongly correlated with how long a player sits in a film room). The best guarantee of a quality player (note: not human being) would be obsession with football and nothing else.

    Finally, one thing that I can never understand is how & why pro defensive stars gather up all that ruthless energy to destroy and throw themselves around despite the fact that they are making millions. The only thing I can conjure up is that they must be borderline insane or at least stupid.

    The thing I can least possibly comprehend is how a player who aspires to be a neuro-surgeon would launch himself head first at anything.

  • Bob

    Great post. Unfortunately there’s not really a bigger bastion of anti-intellectualism than the NFL. It’s almost like jealousy or something, it’s really hard to explain all the crap Rolle is getting.

    It’s almost as if people in the NFL are threatened by someone with brains invading their sanctum of masculinity.

  • I dunno. Rolle is a great man, and is cursed with being blessed with so many talents.

    The problem NFLers have is that they aren’t assembling a Boys Choir, they are making multi-million dollar investments (into uncapped territory). Just like NCAA recruiters, what is a safe investment? Have I done my due diligence by vetting the authenticity of commitment from the prospect?

    If you could choose between 20 safety prospects, wouldn’t you go with the one with the least chance of burning you later?

    I truly doubt this has anything to do with character of Rolle, and more to do with conflicting interests. If he could become X and Y, then the control of Z in his life will not be as strong as the player who has only Z to rely on.

  • ricky

    I wonder if the Tampa Bay staffers ask any underclassmen who declare early for the NFL how they feel about deserting their teams.

  • DM

    I’d like to say that I agree that it was asked just to see what he would say, but the choice of words is just so poor that I don’t know. And the Bucs are such a poorly run team that I’m willing to believe that they think that way.

  • russ the bus

    HAHAHAHA!! billsfan talking about “a well-managed and successful franchise.”

    I would imagine that the mindset of nfl execs varies just as widely as the opinions on this thread. Some might ask this kind of question to see how he’d react. Others might mean it quite literally. Speaking as a Bills fan myself, I’d probably put those good ol’ boys Nix and Gailey in the latter group.
    Still tho, I’m sure Bobby Bowden will vouch for the kid’s commitment which would be worth something to those “real football men”; and ultimately his game tape will speak for itself, Rolle’s got skills.

  • Coach J

    Great post,

    and to anyone who followed the Bucs, you can’t be surprised by this asinine interrogation coming from Raheem Morris…

  • vijay

    when I first saw this story, my immediate reaction was if the Tampa coach felt the same way about college kids that go pro early. Are they deserters too?

    That being said, this situation does not seem that different than the real world. When I was interviewing for a job in consulting out of undergrad, i made the mistake of mentioning to a prospective employer a desire to go to grad school in 3-5 years, and that was cited back as the reason I didn’t get the offer by the HR person. It seemed ridiculous since a million unspoken unexpected things can happen over 3-5 years that changes one’s job status.

  • Jonesie

    Hey, you are giving those of us who teach H.S. P.E. a bad name! Don’t drag us into this conversation! Most of us actually care about our students!

    I am also a Bills fan, and I am sure that he must have been talking about a well run organization, thus excluding our beloved Bills.

    Two black eyes in one post! Ouch!

  • CJ

    Why don’t the Bucs ask every early entrant why he is deserting his team and his education to go play in the NFL?

  • Paul

    I am reminded of a time earlier in my life when I was recruited, with many others, by one of several large corporations who paid us probably more that we deserved or expected and then worked us ungodly hours, treated us like dung, and acted like we should enjoy that and want more.

    Corporations don’t really want employees. They want slaves. So they try to buy them.

    I believe that some coaches respect their players. Others just want performance and don’t really care about them at all.

    Even football needs to be placed in perspective.

  • M.

    I’ll tell you what irritates me. Your comment about how “some (NFL coaches) would be teaching high school PE if not for the pro game.” The idea that football coaches and Phys. Ed. teachers/majors are somehow inferior intellectually is a litte too stereotypical, don’t you think? Are there some dull blades out there in coaching? Sure, but you manage a blog that deals with the strategic aspects of the game. You should know how pro coaches deal with the minutiae of schemes and techniques on an almost endless basis. I CHOSE my profession, because I love the game of football and have great respect for those who coach and/or play it.

    Do I think some of the criticism or Rolle is absurd? Absolutely. However, I do feel that it is well within a team’s rights to try and determine how commited to the game any potential player is.

  • ralf

    I think you’re missing an important part of this: Rolle is black. And smart. White people are scared of that. White players that get good grades at good schools are welcomed with quotes like “We think he’ll be able to understand our system right away” or “He’s going to be a leader right off the bat.” Smart black guy? “We’re not sure how committed he is.” Translation: “We’d be more comfortable with a guy that goes to strip clubs with a gun in his waistband, because that’s what we expect from black men.”

  • Tyler


    Raheem Morris is black himself. Perhaps you should research these things before posting. It will save you some embarrassment.

  • Irfan

    “M”, that whole middle section is an excerpt from a yahoo article (click on the link at the top). Chris wasn’t the one who made the reference about PE teachers, it was the author of that article. So don’t direct your anger at him

  • Arena Guy

    To put it simply, the NFL is merely coldly looking out for their best interests. Rolle’s answer to Tampa’s question, or better yet the underlying tone of their question, was exactly what they wanted to hear. Outsiders may view that situation as cold but in reality that probably scored Rolle points with Tampa. The NFL is mostly an 8-8 league…a few QB’s make certain teams 12-4…..a couple bounces either way make you 10-6 or 6-10. 1 player can make a difference for these bounces and save your job, thus the very detailed, when not cold mentality when evaluating.

  • Arena Guy

    Also….did anyone stop to think if Rolle is indeed committed to playing football? Perhaps it is a tremendously valid question. If Rolle applied for an internship at a hospital (or whatever) do you think they would ask him how committed he is to being a surgeon considering he’s out running around cones in Indianapolis? There would be hundreds of qualified aspiring young surgeons out there….most of whom are not toying with football…..and the same can be said for the players…most of them are not toying around with the idea of being a doctor. I think a strict line of questioning is valid here in any case.

  • Aceplace

    Though I still don’t like the jab at PE teachers either, in the context of the article, it appears to me that the writer is trying to make a comparison between Rolle’s level of education and the level of education of his NFL interviewers.

  • Pro sports – much like pro wrestling for years – is starting to look like he Mafia. The “business” is more important than anything – family, career, livelihood, health is second to all. Don’t forget Ben Roethlisberger being criticized by Hines Ward for sitting out with a concussion.

    Reminds me a lot of John Cooper’s criticism of Robert Smith when he wanted to major pre-med instead of basket weaving.


    ricky says:
    March 4, 2010 at 9:18 am
    I wonder if the Tampa Bay staffers ask any underclassmen who declare early for the NFL how they feel about deserting their teams.


    You’ve made the most sensible statement anywhere on the internet regarding this issue; thank you so much. All blah, blah, blah about Wonderlicks and football IQs only irritate me further. Bottom line, point blank, you’d be a fool not to put this guy on your team. End of story. You have guys like Steve Young and Brad Culpepper who’ve gone to Law School, passed the BAR and opened their own practices while playing. John Elway owns everything that looks like a car dealership in Denver, and has for a long time. Myron Rolle wants to be a nuerosurgeon. Stop the presses. All of the afore mentioned pursuits required distractions outside of football (ever ran a multi-million dollar car dealership? good luck), but never such an issue with the pursuit itself. I think the problem is that most people in the NFL can’t even spell what Myron Rolle wants to be so they’re just scared.

  • Lance

    Why are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-3??

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