Myron Rolle is a classic man with both brains and brawn. Never one to be compartmentalized into a box, the former NFL safety, Rhodes Scholar, founder of the Myron L. Rolle Foundation, and upcoming medical school graduate (from Florida State on May 20), has always planned for a life of success. The debonair Bahamian-American will be a few steps closer to his fulfilling his life’s dream of becoming a neurosurgeon when he takes residency at Massachusetts General Hospital on July 1.
In the second part of a collaborative two-part interview with SET Magazine and TheSportstyle.com, the scholar-athlete-philanthropist talks about everything from the parallels between preparing for a life in the NFL and medicine to his tips for “turning up” at the Junkanoo parade in The Bahamas.
Are there any parallels between the preparation it takes to become a neurosurgeon and playing in the NFL?
Yes, certainly. Football has taught me communication, hard work, discipline, overcoming adversity, working with a team, and taking constructive criticism from coaches. It has taught me all of that and it developed me in a way that has prepared me for life right now in the O.R. [operating room].
For our mini O.R., I’m using those same qualities. It’s almost like a game, but the stakes are a lot higher.
You have a patient on your operating room table that is submitting themselves to you and wants you to do the best you can possibly do for them. Football has trained me well. It’s also trained me to deal with the intensity. I know what it’s like to go through two-a-day practices in the hot, blazing sun. I know what it’s like to be hurt, physically, and still have to get back up and play the next play. I know what it’s like to literally feel like I’m going to pass out if I keep running, but kept going anyway because that’s what we did.
I haven’t been through residency yet, but, from what I hear from others, they say it’s tough. It’s grueling on the body and it’s taxing. I don’t think the pain will be anything new to me; it would be something I recognize, and because I recognize it, it’s probably something I can deal with.
Another thing that’s a parallel is, before I played my games, I’d look in the mirror and I’d pray and I’d ask God to help me, I’d listen to soca and reggae music to cool me down a little bit, and I’d visualize how I’d play the game. I’d visualize what I was going to do, the plays that I was going to make, the assignments that I had; all of that. And before I go into a case and operation, I do the same thing. I look in the mirror and ask God to protect my hands, and do a good job for this patient. I listen to music and visualize the approach I’m going to take for surgery.
I don’t want to see football go. I know a lot of people are concerned about the safety issues. It’s been so great to me, and still being great to me.
On your social media feed, you often use the hashtag “2%” as a philosophy to live by. Can you elaborate on what that means?
My defensive coordinator at Florida State was Mickey Andrews — he’s a great man and leader. He was a father figure for all of us who played at FSU, and would challenge us to get 2% better, daily. Before we even stepped onto the field, he’d say, “Men, I want you to get 2% better.” What he meant by that was, grab 2% of improvement in anything you do on the field. Your back peddle. Your stamina. Your strength. Your speed. Your communication with your teammate. Your endurance. Anything you can get better at, grab that.
After practice, we’d literally come in the meeting room and he’d ask us to be honest about if we got 2% better or if we did not get better today at all. When we’d answer him, he’d put our initials on the board and keep track of it.
Having accountability is key.
No question. To me, it was a real, tangible, practical, and pragmatic goal of daily improvement. When people say “I got 100% better today,” it means you doubled your talent ability in one day, and I think that’s ridiculous. Nobody can do that. Two percent is something small you can do every single day to keep moving you towards your goal of being whatever it is you want to be. I just extrapolated that ideology onto daily life.
When I talk to young people, and when I give speeches or post online, I hashtag “2%” because instead of just taking 2% out of your football play, I say, “Take 2% of life.” Every day, grab 2% from your chance encounter you have on the street with someone, or an article that you read, or a documentary that you watched, or a patient that you may come into contact with at the hospital. Whatever 2% you can get to make you a better leader, thinker, son, daughter, friend, brother, philanthropist, or whatever, do that because there are people who are counting on us. There are people who have sacrificed a lot for us to get where we are today. I think it’s an obligation for us to continue to move forward and to keep moving things forward, and 2% is kind of a way to do that.
Yes, Paul Robeson is a huge deal to me. My father is a huge Paul Robeson fan and made me do book reports about him when I was very young. Growing up near Atlantic City, I would want to go to the boardwalk in the summer with my friends, and my dad would stop me from going because he wanted me to do book reports. I was a little upset having to research people I didn’t know, but when I researched Paul Robeson, and studied his life, I realized just how much of a renaissance man he was: an athlete, a thespian, a philanthropist, a thinker, a leader — he was just everything. I had a real example of what I could possibly be in this country.
Coming from the Bahamas, my parents and my family wanted to put these Black leaders in front of us, like Paul Robeson, so we would know there were abundant opportunities for us to do well if we focused on education, became good citizens and leaders, and stayed true to our Christian values.
Well said. Paul Robeson also had a great legacy as a social activist. I know you are a humanitarian and committed to philanthropic service through your Myron Rolle Foundation. Do you see a path of social activism in your future?
Certainly. I’m doing it actively through my mentoring with young people and have never been one to shy away, in my opinion, from voicing my stance on a particular topic; controversial or not. I think it’s important for people who identify themselves as leaders to be servants when it’s time to serve. If there’s a social injustice somewhere that needs to be addressed with vigor and veracity, now that I have a platform to stand on, and an audience of people who are interested in hearing what I have to say, I think it’s an opportune time to engage in social activism.
My foundation is a grassroots example of how to inspire young people. Especially those disenfranchised in foster communities in Florida and the Bahamas. It’s also important to me to show them there is a pathway to success. It doesn’t have to look like mine; it can look like theirs. They just have to believe that it will occur, because sooner or later, you and I, Nicole, will have to move away from the table. These young people are going to have to step up to the table and make decisions for everybody, and we want to make sure they’re ready.
Switching gears a bit, I know you’re a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. How has being in a brotherhood with so many esteemed Black men helped shape your life?
That’s a great question. Well, part of the reason why I wanted to be a Kappa — well, I initially wanted to be a Que [member of Omega Psi Phi] before I got to Florida State because I have a bunch of cousins who pledged Omega at Morgan State. So, it’s kind of funny. My cousin who pledged Omega Psi Phi at Morgan, he’s now a pediatrician down in Nassau, and I went to his wedding in Baltimore. I saw him and his fraternity brothers doing some kind of handshake when they got close to each other. I was like 12-years-old, and I went up to him and was like, “Can you teach me that handshake, bro? Cause I want to do it with you.” He and his frat brother started cracking up. Then his frat brother was like, “Aight, I got you,” only to do some kind of weird thing with my hand. I knew that wasn’t it, and they started laughing.
He hit you with the fake out.
Yeah, he pushed my head away and everything.
But, from an early age, I always knew I wanted to be in a frat, so when I got to college, I met a senior on the football team who was a Kappa. I didn’t know he was a Kappa, but I saw the way he dressed. He wore Polo shirts; had them tucked in. Nice slacks and the Polo hat. He was always clean, smelled good, and had a nice car. He stood out amongst my teammates who had locs, gold teeth, long white tees, Girbaud jeans, and Air Force 1s. This guy had style: he was classy. So I asked him, “What is that? Your whole aura is different.” He said, “Come with me brother, I’m going to show you what Kappa Alpha Psi is all about.”
Sounds like he had that glow. A light around him.
Yeah, he had it. After that, it was a wrap. I pledged maybe two semesters later, and it’s been great.
Being around like-minded men who are about achievement is great. The bible says “iron sharpens iron” in Proverbs 27:17, and I’ve been around some guys who are real thought leaders. It’s good to see that and support it. Now, I have younger brothers who look up to me.
So how tight is your Kappa shimmy?
Shoulders are wet. [Laughs] I’m kidding.
What about your cane game?
So, my cane game is not as strong as my shoulder game. I can give some incredible shoulders on the spot.
So what song gets you in that zone when you’re strolling?
Probably ‘Candy‘ by 8-Ball and MJG, they did a remake to Cameo’s ‘Candy‘. Also — this is very Florida-centric since I pledged there — Plies. He has a song called ‘I Am The Club‘. My shoulders get wet to that one. I’m not southern, but I’ve been around southern dudes. When those songs come on, I enjoy it.
Going to Junkanoo is high up on my bucket list, as it is with so many others, can you give us Myron’s tips on getting lit?
Junkanoo has two days, Boxing Day and New Years. I say go for Boxing Day. It’s the one that’s really, really poppin’. When you get down there, you can join a scrap gang; that’s what I did. You don’t have to join one of the bigger bands like the Saxons or the Valley Boys. Just a little scrap gang and go down Bay Street with your whistle and get a goat-skin drum.
You can choose to not wear a lot of clothes if you want or wear a lot of clothes. It’s whatever you want to do. Just feel the music and the riddim, and just go with it.
If you want to drink, that’s possible, too. Obviously, there’s a lot of liquor flowing. It’s a great celebration of our culture and a good time. You’ll enjoy it.
Through your foundation, you deal with a lot of young people from disenfranchised backgrounds. Some of them may look at you and say becoming a neurosurgeon or playing in the NFL is unrealistic for them. What advice do you offer them to keep them from giving up?
I’d tell them it first starts with a belief in yourself. Unmitigated, unparalleled belief in yourself. Look at people who are not underserved and not disenfranchised, who come from upper to middle-class families and come from very developed nations. What’s the difference between those children and the other children? The children who are in those upper-class families, they have a belief in themselves, almost like a sense of entitlement — like, “This is where I belong. I belong at this job. I belong in this college. I deserve this position. I should get this.” There is no doubt in their mind because they’ve seen their daddy do it; it’s part of their legacy. And for people who are disenfranchised, Black and Brown, especially in this country, there is not that belief because maybe there is not that example. I think it’s important [for those who have become successful] to show their faces and affirm that there are others who have done great work and they look like you, they enjoy your culture, they share your culture, they come from your background, and you, too, can be successful. But I it starts with belief in yourself that you belong in the seat at that table, just like anybody else.
Nobody is better than you because they have more money than you, or have a different skin complexion; you belong there. I think once you have that belief, then you’ll start to make the appropriate decisions and take the appropriate actions and make the steps daily to get to those goals because you now think that these goals are realistic. These are goals realizable. I always walked as a young person believing that I belonged in this country, even though we came from another country and didn’t have a lot of money, my parents hard-wired that in our minds that we belonged and to not let someone push you out of that seat. And when you get there, you shine and perform. And because I believe that and walk with that kind of confidence, I made sure I made the right decisions that would not jeopardize that seat that I now have. So I say to young people, find that thing that resonates with you, believe it, and hold onto it, don’t let anyone push you out of your seat. You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar like me; you can be an artist or an educator, in law enforcement, a lawyer…whatever it is, it requires the same discipline, focus, and belief that you belong there like anyone else.
Spoken like a true leader.
To keep up with Myron as he tackles the world of medicine, and all of the amazing things he’s doing through his foundation, be sure to follow him here and here. You can read Part 1 of our interview on TheSportstyle.com here, where Myron discusses the adversity he faced in the NFL and whether or not he’s had to sacrifice love for medicine.