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The Carletonian

Point-Counterpoint: Myron Rolle, does talent ever trump character?

<ong>By David Sacks

Every year during the NFL draft, analysts, scouts and team executives talk about the character of players in the draft.  During the NFL Combine, players are given Wonderlic tests to determine their basic intelligence.  And as off-field issues increase around the league, character is becoming more of a determinant in draft decisions than ever, which is understandable.  Teams are making multi-million dollar investments in these players, many of whom will become the face of a franchise.  Teams are trying to avoid the next public relations disaster, hoping to avoid players who will make all of the wrong headlines off the field.  

As teams are putting more emphasis on character issues, every year during the draft a handful of players plummet down the draft board due to questions about their maturity and character, while some are drafted higher than their skill would dictate because teams think they will be great in the locker room and be the first one into the building and last one to leave everyday, setting an example for the rest of the team.  This year, Dez Bryant, the immensely talented wide receiver out of Oklahoma State, who many said had the most talent in the draft, fell to the 24th pick due to concerns about his level of maturity.  On the other hand, Tim Tebow, who was cast as a workhorse who would do anything to win, was drafted with the 25th pick, well ahead of two quarterbacks who have a much better chance at being a good NFL quarterback than Tebow.

Given all of this, wouldn’t a team jump at the opportunity to draft a player who was ranked the number one high school prospect in the country in 2006 by ESPN, who played for a traditional college football powerhouse (Florida State) in one of the toughest conferences in the country, where he won Sporting News Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and continued to impress on the field?  Oh, by the way, he also won a Rhodes Scholarship with a 3.75 GPA, earned his bachelors degree in only two and a half years, and even went on to earned his M.A. in medical anthropology at Oxford.  

Apparently not.  Myron Rolle plummeted down the draft board and was drafted in the sixth round, 207th overall.  The knock on Rolle was that he had too much going on outside of football.  Teams want their players to focus their attention entirely on football – it has to be their first, second and third priorities.  The concern was that Rolle’s first priority would be football, while his second priority would be neurosurgery.  

If teams think that the players they draft only care about football they are delusional.  While some players love football and dedicate themselves to watching film, practicing and working out, I would guess that a majority of NFL players’ priorities are football, money and partying or fame.  If a team had a player like Myron Rolle in the locker room, his presence and dedication would inevitably rub off on his teammates.  Rolle is the safest pick in the draft possible.  When he’s not on the field, he will be working for the health clinic he is opening in the Bahamas or continuing his studies.  Rolle won’t let the fame get to him and enjoy everything that comes with being an NFL player more than football.  

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, agrees that the NFL needs more players like Rolle in the league.  He met with Rolle on April 21st because he was so proud of him and his accomplishments.  Unfortunately, teams did not agree with this sentiment and drafted players ahead of Rolle, many of whom had tested positive for marijuana multiple times, cheated on exams and were kicked off their college football teams. 

This notion of character in football is hypocrisy.  It’s only a certain type of character – unquestioning, not thinking and just playing football – that is desired.  Rolle said, “There were a lot of guys who were taken ahead of me that I know I’m better than.” 31 NFL teams missed out on having a guy full of character, and a good player, on their team.

-David Sacks is a Carletonian columnist

By Justin Rotman

In a time where character concerns among athletes are at an all-time high, many NFL fans and journalists are upset at the fact that the most high-character athlete fell within one pick of being taken in the last round of this month’s NFL draft.  In falling to the Tennessee Titans at the 207th overall pick, Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, who chose to skip his senior season to study at Oxford, incited heated debates about why character was so ignored in this instance, when anxiety about the issue is reaching its peak.

In simple terms, I’ll use the old cliché:  The NFL is a business.  Teams view each of their players as an individual asset, and like the real world, one underperforming asset can bring the whole firm down.  While character and maturity may be pressing matters, NFL teams and scouts are still focused on the most important attributes: speed, strength, size, football knowledge, and work ethic.  One or a couple of blown draft picks in the high round, especially if they were perceived to be “reaches,” players who were drafted higher than they were rated, can cost NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers their jobs.  They have an obligation to put the best possible team together, and most of the time that means bringing together good football players before bringing together good people.

I’m not arguing that Myron Rolle should not have been drafted, and I’m not arguing against Myron Rolle’s talent.  It is true that he was the top player coming out of high school in the nation four years ago.  Let me say that again, in slightly different terms.  College scouts thought Myron Rolle was the best high school player in America four years ago.  A lot has changed since then.   Whether it was wilting under the tremendous expectations, being distracted and/or overloaded by his intense focus on schoolwork, or simply a factor of Florida State’s downfall from college football’s elite, Rolle did not live up to his billing at Florida State.  He led a Florida State defense that continually got worse, leading to the retirements of defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and head coach Bobby Bowden and had exactly one interception in his entire college career.
I do not mean in any way to put Florida State’s problems on Rolle’s shoulders.  A multitude factors contributed to their demise, and Rolle was one of the few players that  kept the ship afloat for the last few seasons.  Still, though, number one rated prospects in the country are supposed to have great careers.  They are supposed to transform their college teams, lead them to the next level, and leave a lasting legacy before departing to the NFL.  ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. “thought Rolle had a nice career, not a great career.” Former top-rated prospects like Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin did have great careers.  They transformed their colleges, won tons of games, and left legacies.  They were rewarded for their efforts with high NFL draft picks.  Rolle did not have a great career, and was rewarded  for it accordingly.

While many bicker about NFL teams’ concerns with Rolle’s dedication, I see it as a legitimate worry.  While I wouldn’t go as far as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in this year’s combine, asking Rolle in a personal interview how it felt “to desert” his team last season (after deciding to forgo his senior season and study at Oxford), I agree about the lengths of concern.  The NFL is a billion-dollar-a-year business, and if you don’t protect your team you get left out in the cold.  Teams need football to be a priority for players.  What if Rolle blows out his knee early in his career?  Is he going to choose to put himself through hours of intense rehabilitation, without the certainty he will ever play again? Or will he choose to fall back on his incredible options that so many other players don’t have?

Look, I’m rooting for Rolle and I honestly hope he proves everyone wrong and has a fantastic career.  I know he will one way or the other.  Just not sure if it will be in football.

-Justin Rotman is a Carletonian columnist

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