It’s not often a football player wants to spend an afternoon with a neurosurgeon, as it usually implies having baseline concussion tests or something similarly uncomfortable.
“We saw about 20 patients,” said Rolle. “I have shadowed doctors before, but he is a very special doctor.”
Rolle is pretty special himself. The saying, a ‘gentleman and a scholar’ applies for the Steelers safety who was signed this offseason.
When football is over, he wants to pursue a career as a philanthropic neurosurgeon, travelling around the world to help those who need it the most, particularly in underdeveloped nations.
“When I was in sixth grade I read a book called ‘Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,’” said Rolle. “That inspired me to go into that field.”
He graduated from Florida State in a mere two and a half years, managing to balance school and football, without allowing either to suffer.
“It was about prioritizing and making sure I knew what was important,” said Rolle. “My parents always stressed the importance of academics and I did that since I was younger so that was routine for me. When I got to Florida State I knew I went there to earn my degree, set myself up as a future draft pick and make an impact in the community. Once I had that mindset and conceptualized that, it made putting the different items I had to do every day in order really easy.”
And if something was difficult, he still found a way to master it and turn it into something positive.
“The toughest class I had at Florida State was human biochemistry,” said Rolle. “It was so difficult I ended up doing research with the professor. We studied human mesenchymal stem cells and some cancer cells. I got a $6,000 grant to study those in the summer.
“The difficulty of the class attracted me to it. I had to go see a teacher for office hours to help. We developed a relationship and he brought the idea about doing the research and we picked it up from there.”
It was that ability to challenge and push himself to the limit and succeed that earned Rolle a Rhodes Scholarship, something awarded only to the best and the brightest.
Rolle had an interview for the Rhodes Scholarship on November, 22, 2008, the same day Florida State played at Maryland. Most people would choose one or the other. It’s no surprise Rolle not only choose both, but mastered both.
“It was remarkable, probably one of the best days of my life,” said Rolle, who used the Rhodes Scholarship to earn his master’s degree in medical anthropology from Oxford University. “I had a lot of support from Florida State, from the athletic department, making sure all I had to do was focus on the interview and show myself as a worthy candidate. Fortunately the result was in my favor as a Rhodes Scholar elect.
“After the interview I got on a private plane to head to Maryland for the game. And we won the game. It was two victories not only for me, but our university improving our academic image.”
While studying at Oxford was the perfect decision for Rolle for his medical future, it did delay his football future. He spent 2009 at Oxford not participating in athletics, missing football but having no regrets.
“Looking back at it, if I have any regrets it’s very short-lived and very transient,” said Rolle. “If you look at the big picture, I think I made the right decision for myself and my family, and for those that look at me as a role model for scholastics and athletics.”
Despite his accomplishments in the classroom, there is something Rolle still desires – to play in the NFL. Rolle was the Tennessee Titans sixth-round draft pick in 2010, spending a year on the practice squad, but was released by them prior to the 2011 season.
He signed a futures contact with the Steelers in January, and is now on the roster, just finishing up OTAs and mini-camp and preparing for training camp.
“I still have a love for the game,” said Rolle. “I still have athleticism in my corporal body to be able to contribute to a team. I am excited about this opportunity. Everything here is high tempo, high intensity. The coaches love the game. You get the feel that everybody loves it here. When I signed with Pittsburgh I had fans welcome me on Facebook and Twitter. It was overwhelming. To have that love and to give it back is something I want to do on the field, showing it every snap, 100 percent, doing everything I can.”
Rolle, 25, will be fighting to provide depth behind
“Every time I step on the field it’s an opportunity,” said Rolle. “Every time I take a snap it’s my chance to show the coaches and organization that I can contribute here and earn a spot. There is a level I want to reach. There is a level every man needs to reach here to be a Steeler and a part of this team and I am just looking forward to grinding it out every day to get here.
“Hands down this is the best I have felt. I am learning a new system and around some inspired and enthusiastic coaches who want to see the best out of all of us. I feel like I am in a good position right now. I think the Lord has placed challenges in my football career that have helped me be a better player. I think there is an old adage that says, ‘Rough seas make a better sailor.’ I think I have gone through some rough seas in my athletic career and I am primed and ready to make an impact and hopefully earn a spot on this team.”