Snub of Rhodes Scholar serves as a reminder of what could await LB Michael Sam in NFL draft.
Not that the two men’s tales are mirrors of each other, because they are not. Rolle’s tale is about academics, about how being a bookworm didn’t dovetail with pro football and its single-minded focus on physicality. Sam’s tale is about just accepting who a person is and to hell with the consequences.
In reality, Myron Rolle’s tale is instructive for all of us who seek to understand Sam’s. Rolle shows what can happen to someone who is “different” thann he’s expected to be.
For, like Sam, Rolle, a star defensive back for Florida State from 2005-2008, was far different from the typical player at one of those big-time football factories. He placed his books ahead of his football aspirations. While he wanted a look at the NFL, Rolle longed to be a neurosurgeon.
But that’s not what we expect from a football player, particularly a Black football player.
A muscular, fearless Black man finds obstacles in his path when “bookish” and “nerdy” are attached to his resume. But his resume doesn’t include a stop in the NFL, a league where he fit in as well as he did with a certain group of folk who favor Black men who are crass and unschooled, folk who see “proper English” and education as unbecoming of a brother.
With his eyes on education, Rolle never made pro football his “Plan A.” He’s pursuing his Plan A now. He’s studying medicine at the Florida State College of Medicine; he’s a couple of years away from becoming Dr. Myron Rolle. From everything you hear about him, he’s not regretting the fact NFL teams didn’t give him a legitimate chance at playing their game.
Teams ignored Rolle; they pushed him aside, dismissed him as if he were a crack head. They did so because he didn’t fit their dog-eared picture of what a NFL player ought to act and look like.
That’s where the similarities to Michael Sam, the star defensive end for Missouri, come from. He, too, is different: a gay man in the macho world of professional football, and Sam should expect to pay a cost for telling the sports world that he’s gay.
Ignore all NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s talk about the league and its no-nonsense policy on harassment. Such talk carries a big discount, because when you dig into what happened in Miami last season, you know that bullying and harassment don’t disappear overnight in pro sports.
The NFL draft isn’t too far away, so we will soon see what Sam’s openness about his sexuality will mean for his football career. But if you expect his sexuality to not frighten some teams away, then you’ve disregarded how being different affected Myron Rolle and dashed all of his NFL dreams.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
(Photo: NFL via Getty Images)