Everyone knows that professional football has been besieged by scores of players who were found to have suffered brain damage in the form of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can only be diagnosed after death.
In fact, PBS confirmed that 76 of 79 former players from the NFL tested positive for the degenerative brain disease post-mortem.
However, one former player—Dr. Myron Rolle—who put off an NFL career because he was a Rhodes Scholar—plans to become a physician with a specialty in neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in June.
Rolle graduated from Florida State Medical School on Saturday. He also attended FSU as an undergraduate and played with the Seminoles from 2006-2008. He put his football career on hold in 2009 to study at Oxford after becoming a Rhodes scholar, one of the most prestigious international scholarships in the world, and earned a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the prestigious British university.
Rolle famously went from his interview for the Rhodes scholarship to College Park, Maryland, riding a chartered plane in order to play for the Seminoles in their 37-3 victory over the Maryland Terrapins on Nov. 22, 2008. He received a standing ovation when he entered the stadium.
He went on to have a professional football career playing safety for the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 2013 to attend the Florida State University College of Medicine.
According to CNN, Rolle will be treating patients and wants to merge the worlds of medicine and football.
“Toward the end of my career, I started to think about concussions and what the effects of repetitive concussions can do,” he said.
“Football has done so much for me, given me friends, family, given me life lessons that now I can use in the operating room or just as a leader,” he said. “I would hate to see it go, and I would love to see it around.”
He says that he wants to help younger players preserve their brains after their football career has ended.
“I will tell you in person, ‘Yes, play, but be careful; be safe, and understand some of these things that need to go into it for you to enjoy it,’ ” he said. “The fundamentals have to be emphasized: tackling the correct way. Having the right equipment. Making sure that you don’t have very violent practices or contact practices.”
Another black neuroscientist sparked his interest in the field—he was in the fifth grade when he read the book Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson. Since then, Rolle said, Carson has become a mentor.
“I’m glad that I walked into my purpose,” Rolle said. “I’m glad that I walked into something that was a smooth transition from football.”