Brian Rolle isn’t the biggest and he isn’t the tallest, but once he hits the field, you will definitely know who he is by the end of the game. He’s a tough guy that’s not afraid to be a leader and a force on the football field, but before we get into the future, let’s go back in time.
Brian grew up in Immokalee, Florida, a small city 40 miles outside of Miami. Rolle’s football pedigree stems from his athletic family, starting with his cousins, New York Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle, former Baltimore Ravens defensive back Samari Rolle, and former Tennessee Titans defensive back Myron Rolle. Rolle’s second cousin is former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson. His brother William also played football too – Strong Safety for Illinois State. With all those football players in Rolle’s family, it’s hard to imagine him not playing football, almost as if it would be blasphemous to think otherwise.
B-Rolle was a two-way player during his season year at Immokalee High School; playing both linebacker and fullback. He led his team in a rampage through their schedule, going undefeated as he racked up huge numbers on the ground and on defense. He was a fast, small, and tenacious one man wrecking crew, and though the Indians finished 10-0 that year, for Brian Rolle and his teammates, that was the end. Unfortunately, their team never got that opportunity repeat their championship season of 2004 due to an issue involving an ineligible player, Kicker Blandel Jean, who had appeared in four games the previous year. The Indians were banned from postseason play because Jean was 30 years old. Tough break for the Defensive POY (Player of the Year) who finished his senior season with 125 tackles to go along with 902 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns from the fullback position.
Nevertheless, as ill-fated as that may sound that never stopped his offers from pouring in from the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Florida and LSU. Growing up a Miami fan, he longed for the chance to play for the Infamous U, but that never offer never came. He verbally committed to OSU in December of his senior year. Sadly, that decision will be made in the aftermath of a horrible event: the death of Rolle’s girlfriend, Joylisa, in an auto accident. I can’t imagine how that must’ve been for a B-Rolle; ironically, in the middle of making one of the most important decisions of his life, he now has to handle one of the worst experiences of his life. After that happened, reports started surfacing about Rolle wavering on his commitment, with many people speculating that his destination would be either Florida or Wisconsin, many Buckeye fans were worried, at least until he put all worries to bed by formally committing to #BuckeyeNation.
When Brian Rolle arrived on campus, he had a reputation as a hard hitter with a nonstop motor, but Ohio State isn’t a place where someone can get by on high school reputation alone. He started as a special teams player, and later emerged as the starting MLB during his junior season, ranking second on the team with 94 tackles. Through his last season as a buckeye, he was voted team captain, first team all-Big Ten and was on the Butkus Award preseason watch list. He left his mark at OSU with 24 career starts 202 tackles, 20 TFL, 4 int 30-yard interception return for TD against Marshall, along with TFL, PBU, and 4 tackles. Team-best 10 tackles at Illinois … 5 tackles and snagged an interception initially juggled by Homan in the Indiana win. 8 tackles at Wisconsin; a sack and 3 tackles in the Purdue victory. He also received Big ten player of the week honors, and a host of other accolades.
However, even with his extensive résumé, he still didn’t get much love in the NFL. He heard everything from him not being big enough, to him not being able to keep up with TEs.
Brian Rolle lacks the size to become a starting linebacker or the athleticism for a potential move to safety. However, possesses adequate range, power for his size, and the mentality necessary to contribute as a backup and on special teams. Has average range against the run and is willing to take on blockers, but isn’t a true sideline-to-sideline guy and can take too long to shed blocks or be dominated by powerful lineman. Displays the ability to drop into zone coverage and read a quarterback’s eyes, but lacks height and quickness in man coverage. Rolle’s lack of size can be swallowed up by bigger linemen when attempting to anchor, and struggles to disengage from blockers. The height will continue to be a hindrance trying to stick with taller tight end in man and the hip fluidity to mirror quicker backs.
In summation, B-Rolle is a fast heavy hitter, with a lot of heart and power, but lacks the size to truly thrive in the NFL, nonetheless, that didn’t stop him from hearing his name called on draft night.
The 5-foot-10, 240-pound MLB was drafted in the sixth-round (193rd overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. He had 53 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in his rookie season, appearing in all 16 games. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t have the adequate size to go toe to toe with other NFL players. With his rookie season being such a success, it was expected of him to have an even greater sophomore season, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The sophomore season jinx became more than just a myth to B-Rolle, it was a reality. After having played in all 16 games of the 2011 season, he started 2012 on the bench during training camp. He appeared in only 4 games for the Eagles that season, and collected 4 tackles. To some, he was not considered a great special teams player, which is assumed the motivation behind the move. According to Bleeding Green Nation, Rolle had only 8 special team points that season. By comparison, Casey Matthews (30), Akeem Jordan (21) and Jamar Chaney (22) all have considerably more.
In October of 2012, the Eagles parted ways with Brian Rolle; newspapers in Philadelphia are reported that the move was likely as a result of the Eagles’ poor kickoff coverage against the Giants, who averaged 36.2 yards on six returns in that game, according to ESPN.com.
Here is a quote from Rolle via Tim McManus of Eagles 24/7
“I’m surprised to say the least,” said Rolle. “I felt like there’s been tension the last couple weeks there anyway. I’m at a loss for words. It’s crazy but I know I’ll get an opportunity somewhere else. I know I did everything in my power and played hard, and obviously it was not enough. Wherever I end up, there’s going to be hell.”
Then he was gone; unemployment and unwanted. Fortunately, Rolle remain very optimistic after the Eagles cut him. He didn’t allow that to keep him down, and continued to work on his craft, waiting for the day he was called upon to join a team…That day soon came on January 9th, 2013.
Just three months after Rolle was released by the Eagles; In January of 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Linebacker B-Rolle to a reserve/future contract. A new day began, and new time to shine was upon him. The guy, who was too small to have a future in the NFL, is now a part of a championship caliber team with a legitimate chance to make the roster.
Brian’s story is unique a way, not because he’s a player who has faced adversity throughout his football career, but because a lot of people told him he was good, but not good enough. They praised his athletic ability, but constantly reminded him it didn’t matter how well he played, because he will never be big enough to become successful in the league. B-Rolle proved the naysayers wrong his rookie season, but failed to continue that success the following year; whether it was lack of opportunity or lack of trust by the organization, it seemed the critics were right in their assessment of Rolle.
However, those Eagles days are done, and he has a new team. He’s back with a vengeance to prove once again he belongs in this league and it doesn’t matter how big or how strong you are, as long as you have the heart and the determination to hone your craft, unbeknownst to most, the sky is NOT the limit. Thank you Brian Rolle for being an aspiration to us all, and showing us that anything is possible, if you never give up and remain optimistic, you too will see your dreams come to fruition.
Written By: @yagirltee