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The curious case of Myron Rolle: Too clever for the NFL?

A young man who has already been dubbed ‘the future of black America’ has created a dilemma that the NFL is unsure how to deal with…

Young man with a big future: Myron Rolle (right) has attracted a lot of attention for his intelligence and athleticism

From a distance, Myron Rolle looks just like any number of the hundreds of finely tuned athletes running through exercises this week in Indianopolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium. At 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds (15 st 4lbs), Rolle possesses the same unlikely blend of prodigious physical gifts that has long made him and his peers impressive American football players, and consequently attracted the attention of scouts from all 32 NFL teams who are looking for fresh blood in the forthcoming NFL Draft.

Rolle has the same primary ambition as many of the players he shares the field with — to convince one of those teams to make him a first round choice in that draft — but that is where the similarity ends.

Because, beyond the physical likeness, Rolle is quite different from most of his fellow players. For a start, the 23-year-old is the only one of his auditioning group who can list Oxford University on his academic resume.

Not content with being one of the finest young sportsmen in his country, Rolle is also among the most intelligent. Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle may have earned headlines last week with his exploits on Countdown, but Rolle is working on a different plane entirely.

While the U.S. collegiate system requires athletes to be students as well as sport stars, not all graduate with degrees and experiences that will give them options after they’ve played their last down. Many take less taxing courses that help them to fulfil the minimum educational requirements needed to take the field at weekends. Rolle is at the opposite end of the spectrum, having been one of only 32 students throughout the country last year to be awarded the coveted Rhodes scholarship. Bestowed upon the most academically and personally gifted young men and women from around the world, it permits them all a place to study a Masters course of their choice at Oxford University.

Many of his peers dream about the prizes on offer in professional football — the Super Bowl rings, the money, the fame and everything else that comes with it. Rolle has some of those same dreams, but many more to boot. After all, past Rhodes scholars include prominent politicians, rights activists, philosophers, inventors and even, in Bill Clinton, a U.S. President. Continue reading

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Comment, NFL, Sport | , , , | 1 Comment

Tom Brady gets the job done, but what next for the NFL International Series?

After another successful game on these shores, the NFL seems confident enough in the potential of the International Series to consider taking it to the next level. But, after a sizeable number of fans left Wembley early after the game was already won, is there really a next level to reach?


Crowd pleaser: UK fans were once again drawn to the NFL's glitz and glamour, as Wembley once again played host

The third NFL International Series match at Wembley went with the form book, as quarterback star Tom Brady led his New England Patriots passed the much-maligned Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady’s three touchdown, 308-yard textbook performance was only blotted by two underthrown interceptions. But it was still more than enough for the Patriots to ease to a 37-7 win as Brady’s opposite number, Josh Johnson, struggled to keep pace.

The 22-year-old former fifth round pick threw an interception on just the Buccaneers’ third play of the day, an error that was returned for a touchdown by Pats cornerback Brandon Merriweather.

From then on, the 85,000 strong Wembley crowd knew the result was not in question.

A second interception from Johnson in his very next series allowed Brady to get away with an uncharacteristically slow start, and once the Pats’ considerable offence got rolling they regularly put points on the board.

Indeed, such was the one-sided nature of the game, both teams were able to change their quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Brady was replaced by his understudy, Bryan Hoyler, after a solid day’s work had been done.

Johnson, on the other hand, was replaced by Josh Freeman, the organisation’s 2009 first round draft pick who head coach Raheem Morris has high hopes for. With Freeman considered the man for the future, Johnson might not get the starting job back when the Bucs return to action in two weeks’ time.

Few of the fans inside Wembley will spare much thought for the No. 11’s plight, however. It was Brady who was the game’s undoubted star attraction, and he said all the right things in the aftermath of a performance that satisfied the expectant crowd, if not quite blow them away.

“It was like a Super Bowl, all the flashbulbs going off and the fans waving their flags for the first five minutes of the game,” Brady said. Continue reading

October 27, 2009 Posted by | NFL, Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Tom Brady ready to live up to expectations at Wembley, as Tampa Bay fear the worst

The third iteration of the NFL’s experiment abroad continues on Sunday as another two teams venture to London for the International Series. 86,000 fans will be looking to one person — Tom Brady…

Focus of attention: Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Focus of attention: New England Patriots main man Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Tom Brady is coming off the back of one of the best weeks of his career as his New England Patriots travel to the country that resides in their name to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady threw a franchise record five touchdown passes in the second quarter (six overall) of the Patriot’s 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans, before being withdrawn in the third quarter with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Now he gets to fly across the Atlantic and show off his talent to a different, equally appreciative audience.

“I think this is a game we’ve been looking forward to since we heard we’d be flying across the Atlantic to play,” Brady said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It’s not often we fly east to play a game and to play in Wembley Stadium will be great – it’s as historic a stadium as there is in the entire world and all our team is very excited about that.

“This will be a game we’ll all remember for the next 40 or 50 years of our life so we just want to go out there and play at our best.”

Brady and Indianapolis Colts No. 18 Peyton Manning might be widely considered as the two greatest quarterbacks in the modern game, but Brady will have to perform at his illustrious best if he is to impress an English audience that witnessed two other fine exponents of the position last season. Continue reading

October 21, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , | Leave a comment

Cincinnati Bengals quickly graduating from school of ‘Hard Knocks’

They finished last season as one of the worst in the NFL. But five games and four wins later, the Bengals are quickly gaining the respect of all around them…

Summer workout: The Bengals in training camp, where every move was followed by the cameras...

Summer workout: The Bengals in training camp, where every move was followed by the 'Hard Knocks' cameras...

With the 2009 NFL regular season hitting its stride, storylines abound. Picking the biggest one is virtually impossible.

Is it Brett Favre, alienating Green Bay Packers fans as he searches for success with arch-rivals the Minnesota Vikings?

Is it the 5-0 Denver Broncos under preposterously young head coach Josh McDaniels, despite trading away star quarterback Jay Cutler in the off-season?

Or is it future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning once again putting up Most Valuable Player numbers with the impressive Indianapolis Colts?

The answer depends greatly on the fan you speak to. Some might even eschew those three options to suggest that it is actually the Cincinnati Bengals that are the story of the season so far. After all, the Bengals are 4-1 and atop the AFC North so far this season, an impressive turnaround from 2008’s disappointing 4-11-1 effort.

Their improvement is all the more notable for the obstacles and issues they have had to overcome since the off-season, a charge-sheet of problems that made the Bengals’ storyline attractive to HBO as they looked for potential teams on which to base the fifth season of the popular series Hard Knocks.

“This is a story perfect for our times,” said Ken Rodgers, one of the show’s producers, when the Bengals agreed to be filmed. “[Football] is not about getting knocked down, but how you get back up.”

Continue reading

October 14, 2009 Posted by | NFL, Sport | , , | Leave a comment