- Henry Gola
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Named The Star-Ledger's 2004 New Jersey prep defensive player of the year, defensive back Myron Rolle of the Hun School of Princeton has accomplished a lot in high school.
"If you saw his course load, you'd freak out," Hun School football coach Dave Dudeck said. "He was taking classes as a sophomore that honors seniors didn't want to touch."
After ESPN named him the top defensive junior in the country last year, Myron set his sights on some lofty collegiate goals as well.
"I want to major in microbiology, maybe psychology too, graduate in three years," Myron said. "I need to set myself up for med school."
No, Rolle is not your ordinary teenage football recruit. Even with 57 football scholarships on the table, the Web site Rolle maintains (www.myronrolle.net) lists his academic achievements, such as going to the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in New Orleans or playing the lead in "Fiddler on the Roof," ahead of his numerous feats on the football field.
"He never sacrifices academics," Hun School athletics director Bill Quirk said. "If he doesn't understand something in the classroom, he'll stay late and get the answers he needs and be late for practice."
A straight-A student, Rolle says he tries to pattern himself after former Vikings running back Robert Smith.
"He [Smith] told his coach at Ohio State he would quit football if they didn't let him take a science lab course that conflicted with practice," Rolle said.
Myron's unique and refreshing perspective was learned as the youngest of five brothers in a very close family. Father Whitney, mother Beverly and brothers Marchant (33), Marvis (29), Mordecai (27) and McKinley (20) always stressed the importance of academics before athletics.
"I attribute all of my success to them," Myron said. "My older brother [Marchant], he's like a second father to me. And McKinley, he's my best friend.
"We talk every night about everything from school, to dealing with the media, to the pressure that's going to come with me playing big-time college football."
Myron's brothers also gave him hands-on experience in football. Mordecai used to take McKinley and Myron to a local park or parking lot in their hometown of Galloway, N.J., to teach them the intricacies of the game.
"I always had to step my game up a notch with them," Myron said. "I got beat up a little, but I learned from them in seventh grade what kids didn't get to experience until high school."
Says brother McKinley, "We competed against each other and pushed each other. He was smart and learned how to run routes, learned how to run a post flag or a straight fly.
"I used to be pretty good back then, but Myron was just as good or better. He was better than most of the kids my age."
The instincts Rolle picked up in those workouts prepared him to play what he calls a "rover back" position on defense. He can line up anywhere on the field from defensive end to corner to strong safety with his responsibilities changing at each position.
"I learn the positions and I study the film, so the coaches know I'm pretty prepared," he said.
"We give him freedom that I've never given anyone in 17 years of coaching," Dudeck said. "They say let your playmakers make plays, and that's what we do with Myron."
This summer, Myron and McKinley will again train together near home and continue to work with speed guru Paul Fetter, who has trained defensive backs Samari Rolle of the Baltimore Ravens (no immediate relation, though McKinley says he may be a distant cousin) and Pete Hunter of the Dallas Cowboys.
And of course, Myron will continue to soak up McKinley's advice on the recruiting process.
"I've told him to stay humble, and to go a college that fits him," McKinley said.
It would be hard for anyone to stay humble after what happened when Myron and McKinley visited USC the weekend of the Trojans' game with Notre Dame. After the 41-10 USC victory, the two brothers were walking in the tunnel underneath the L.A. Coliseum.
"The whole student section was chanting my name. I didn't have a jersey on or anything that said who I was," Myron said. "I mean I was just a kid from New Jersey. It was amazing. I started smiling."
But it wasn't the chants that Myron remembers most fondly.
"I looked over, and I saw my brother smiling too," he said. "That made my night."