Myron Rolle always credits his past for helping to shape his future.
Rolle, who grew up in Galloway Township, will graduate from Florida State University’s medical school in May. One month later, the 30-year-old former NFL defensive back will begin a seven-year residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in hopes of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Pursuing a career in medicine might not have been possible without the support and guidance of former teachers, school administrators, role models and friends in Galloway.
“When I was in fifth grade was when people first started telling me that I was really good at science,” Rolle said. “My teacher, Ms. (Janet) Manganiello, actually pulled me aside and told me it was something I should pursue. I had a lot of encouragement.”
Although his parents, Beverly and Whitney, moved to Orlando, Florida, a few years ago, Rolle still has plenty of ties to Atlantic County.
When he graduates from medical school, the spectators will include Galloway Superintendent Annette Giaquinto, Atlantic City native and former NFL defensive back Pete Hunter, and Absegami High School graduate Ryan Roman, who is Rolle’s best friend.
“I’m getting married next week in Edison, and Myron is in the wedding,” said Roman, who is an engineer for the U.S. Navy in Philadelphia.
“We’ve known each other since the third grade. They seated the students in alphabetical order, so Myron and I were always next to each other in every class. We always played football together during recess, too.”
They were also teammates on the Galloway Mustangs of the Atlantic County Junior Football League.
Roman earned All Cape-Atlantic League honors in football and baseball at Absegami High School. Rolle played football and basketball for St. Augustine Prep as a freshman before graduating from The Hun School in Princeton.
Rolle was the nation’s No. 1 recruit and received more than 80 scholarship offers. He signed with Florida State and was a three-year starter for the Seminoles as a safety.
Every summer, he would return to Atlantic County and work out with Hunter, who enjoyed a five-year NFL career (2002-06) as a cornerback with Dallas, Cleveland and Seattle.
“I was already in the NFL, so I just tried my best to give Myron and other guys a heads-up about what to expect,” said Hunter, 36, who lives in Dallas and works for the federal government. “Myron’s always been a really, really good kid and a very good listener. It’s a shame things didn’t work out with him in football, but he’s doing great things now. I’m very proud of him.”
In an ideal scenario, Rolle would not be starting his residency, yet.
His plan was to play in the NFL for seven or eight years and then pursue a career in medicine. But NFL teams were skeptical of his commitment to football after he skipped his senior year at Florida State to study medical anthropology in England as a Rhodes scholar.
Rolle was selected by Tennessee in the sixth round of the 2010 draft and spent a year on the Titans practice squad. He was out of football for a year when the Titans released him at the end of the 2011 preseason. He signed with Pittsburgh but was cut again in the summer of 2012.
“I never gave anyone any reason to doubt my commitment to football,” he said. “Even when I was at Oxford eating fish and chips and bangers and mash, I continued to work out every day. And when I got to the Titans, I always tried to steer away from talking about Oxford and just talk about football.”
In the medical world, Rolle was a first-round draft pick.
Massachusetts General was one of 14 hospitals with which Rolle interviewed with during a process that ends with a ceremony known as Match Day.
It is medicine’s version of the NFL draft, where promising medical school graduates are chosen for residencies that can range from three to seven years.
On March 17, his parents joined him in Florida State’s auditorium to learn his fate.
“Each school does it a little differently,” Rolle said. “Florida State used a Harry Potter theme. They handed us wands and envelopes with the letters that named the hospital where we’d be working.
“Massachusetts General was my number one choice, so I’m very happy to be going there. I have to admit I do miss football, but at the end of the day, my lifelong career is carrying me in a different direction.”