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by Joseph C. Phillips

February 28, 2011

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I was impressed when my two oldest sons began discussing college. Thankfully, their mother and I have a few more years before this becomes an issue for either of them, but they were thinking ahead – planning for a successful future. I couldn’t help but stick my chest out a bit. The conversation was a sign that perhaps their mother and I were doing something right.

My rapture was short lived, however. My eldest began to talk about taking advanced placement courses in high school so that he might test out of college freshman courses. It was then that my middle son announced he wasn’t interested in taking any “nerd” classes. Somewhere, my wife went wrong with this boy.

My middle son fancies himself something of a jock. Like many little boys his age, he is planning for a career in big time professional sports. I suspect that he worries that doing too well in school will corrupt his swagger. He reasons therefore that it would be better to do just well enough.

This only proves that try as parents might to emphasize education in the home — in spite of every ounce of diligence expended to instill proper values — there are still forces beyond the control of parents that influence the attitudes and expectations of our children. You can (as we have in our home) make sure that every page of homework is completed and encourage at least 30 minutes of reading per day – weekends included — and your child will still tell you that academics is for nerds.

Thank God for the internet!

I recalled that during the college football season I heard a brief story about a player from Florida State that was late for a game against Maryland because he was interviewing for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, an honor bestowed on only 32 American students a year.

The player profiled was Myron Rolle, a 6-foot-2, 220 pound defensive back for the Florida State Seminoles. He arrived in Tallahassee as one of the top high school football prospects in the country. He also had a 4.0 GPA and 22 advanced placement credits. While in school, Rolle maintained a 3.75 GPA while taking courses like human bio-chemistry and completed his under graduate studies in 2 ½ years, earning a degree in exercise science. He was also a National Leadership Honor Society inductee and the recipient of a $4,000 research grant for his work studying human mesenchymal stem cells. I can’t even pronounce “mesenchymal.”

Oh, and did I mention that he is a heck of a football player? Following the 2008 season he was named a third team All-American by the Associated Press. The Football Writers Association named him second team All-ACC and he was (big surprise) an Academic All- American. He is projected as a late first round or early second round NFL draft pick, however, he is putting his professional career on hold while he pursues his master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford and – get this- another master’s in public policy at FSU. Rolle would almost certainly become a millionaire overnight yet he is postponing entry into the NFL draft in favor of academic pursuits. It’s not the choice everyone would make; it’s not the choice everyone should make, but it is a choice I respect and one that impressed my son.

The bigger lesson of course is that during our lives each and every one of us will be a role model for someone. We may not choose to be role models and we may not like being role models, but the choices we make with our lives ripple outward touching the lives of we know not who. You never know who is watching.

Myron Rolle didn’t plan on being a role model. He simply set out to be the best young man he could be and as a result he made an impression on a third grade boy in southern California. As I finished Myron’s story, my son’s eyes were huge. Suddenly being an AP student was not only acceptable, it was downright cool!

I do not know Myron Rolle, but if I ever meet him I am going to shake his hand.

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