The biggest story from this past weekend's NFL Draft wasn't the spike in television ratings (big surprise here!) or the early drafting of everybody's all-America Tim Tebow or the Redskins' trade of Jason Campbell to the Raiders for virtually nothing. The biggest story was the hypocrisy and poor judgement that the NFL demonstrated. And I would be remiss as a fan if I failed to point it out.
With the final spot in the sixth round (out of seven), or the 207th pick, the Tennessee Titans selected safety Myron Rolle from Florida State University. Rolle was a third team All-American at FSU in 2008 and started 35 of 38 games at FSU.
More impressive than his on-the-field accomplishments? His off-the-field accomplishments. He graduated in two and a half years from Florida State with a 3.75 GPA and achieved the pinnacle of academia when he spent a year studying as a prestigious Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, England.
Just last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended two time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Character and integrity were traits stressed at this past weekend's draft. So-called "high character" players were lauded for the intangibles they could bring to a team.
Good athlete, great intellect and no character issues would seem to embody what Goodell and the rest of the NFL would be seeking as they draft players to contribute to their teams. Apparently, things are not always what they seem.
Apparently, 31 of the 32 NFL teams present in New York City that passed on Myron Rolle for nearly seven rounds didn't see a player who did all the right things. No, they saw a player with a perceived lack of dedication to football. A player they callously and cowardly dismissed as a deserter.
Here's a player that defies the cliche athlete stereotypes. Here's a player who didn't have character issues (Carlos Dunlap). Didn't fail drug tests (Aaron Hernandez, Anthony McCoy, Jonathan Dwyer). Didn't get suspended for dirty play (Brandon Spikes). Yet, these players were drafted before him.
Scouts, analysts, and coaches questioned his dedication.
While studying at Oxford, Rolle routinely woke up at 6am to train. He skipped partying with his classmates at night to work out and prepare himself for the NFL while maintaining his studies. That's not dedication?
No one questioned LSU's Chad Jones' dedication to football though he was drafted by the Astros and split time playing baseball in college. He was drafted in the third round. Apparently two sport athletes are more desired than student-athletes.
No one questions the Utah players who take two years off for mission trips. Or Tim Tebow who spends his summers as a missionary. Most college football players take classes in the summer and work out with their teammates. But taking a year off to pursue higher education is a lack of commitment and dedication? This makes me nauseous.
If Myron Rolle had voided his final year of eligibility as so many players do to enter the NFL draft, no one would question his dedication. He'd be making a decision to better himself for the future. The NFL promises riches and fortune.
A player with a chance to be drafted in the first round has the support of his college, his family, coaches and virtually every fan of sports because he has the opportunity to achieve success. Or as this country sees success—money, wealth, possessions, etc.
When did this country forget that it's student-athlete, not the other way around. Maybe this is why the graduation rate at FBS schools is 67 percent. Maybe the ethos of college sports has changed. Maybe it never was about the books but always about the ball.
Every off-season, the NFL is marred with a barrage of off-the-field problems. DUIs. Dog fighting. Murder. Domestic violence. The questionable behavior of the NFL's star athletes are highly publicized. These media nightmares become a hindrance to NFL teams. Owners, general managers, and coaches should welcome a player like Rolle. They should've coveted him. But they did not.
So when coaches and owners pontificate character, morality and values on their respective media soapboxes, remember it's all a canard for the sake of the public. They would like us to believe that admirable traits are highly desired, but are they really? No, they are not.
The NFL fumbled a great story. A great story for the high school athletes seeking to extend their playing careers at the collegiate level. The majority who will, as the NCAA commercials push down our throats, go pro in something other than sports.
We, as a culture, have taken a turn for the worst when a player of exemplary character and profound aptitude is admonished instead of lauded.
George Robinson of The Leaf Chronicle summed it up best. So I'll conclude with Robinson's well appointed words.
Rolle doesn't need the NFL.
But the NFL needs Rolle.
Maybe the NFL doesn't deserve him.