Thursday, July 1, 2010

TBT EXCLUSIVE Q&A: BRIAN ROLLE

(Photo of Brian Rolle by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Chris Spielman was a legend at Ohio State. He was bigger than life. He was quite possibly the greatest linebacker college football has ever seen.

So, when the hall of famer's No. 36 jersey (the one Spielman wore at OSU) gets passed down to a Buckeye linebacker, it takes a big, big man to fill it out.

Well, Ohio State senior linebacker, Brian Rolle, is doing just that. And he's using all of his 5-foot-11, 225 pound frame to fill it.

The Immokalee, Florida native, who recorded 95 tackles as a junior last season, may not have the prototypical linebacker size that NFL scouts drool over. But ... his heart, determination and internal motor are that of Dick Butkus, Ray Lewis and Jack Lambert — combined.

Simply said ... Rolle is doing Spielman's No. 36 mighty proud.

Although he is quite busy getting prepared for what could possibly be a magical season in Columbus this fall — as well as studying hard for his degree in sociology — the Buckeyes' star linebacker took time out of his busy schedule Thursday to talk with me about the upcoming season, what he expects from the team and himself, as well as the things he is most afraid of.

And no, it isn't Michigan's spread offense.

(Below is the complete transcript of the Rolle interview)

The Buckeye Times: What kind of expectations do you have coming into this season as a team? Do you think the team has a legitimate shot at winning a national championship, as well as a sixth straight Big Ten title?
Brian Rolle: I expect every man on the roster to step up to the challenge. We are going to be ranked really high, but I look for our team not to lean on that, but to play our brand of football. And in the end, we will get what our works deserve.

As for a sixth Big Ten title and the national championship? If we do our job and everyone in our organization does his part, I'm sure we will be successful.

The Buckeye Times: What's your scouting report on the defense coming into this season?
Rolle: Our defense will be amazing. That's if we continue on the road we are heading. Young guys like John Simon, Dorian Bell, Storm Klein and Taylor Rice, just to name a few, are doing amazing jobs at pushing guys at their positions, making them better because everyone wants to be in that starting roll. If we continue to compete in the off-season and into the fall, it will be exciting when those Silver Bullets attack!

The Buckeye Times: You guys finally snapped the three-game BCS bowl losing streak (with the win in January's Rose Bowl against Oregon). How big psychologically was that for the team? Is this the momentum you guys needed coming into this season?
Rolle: Snapping that bowl losing streak was huge. Even against Oregon (in the Rose Bowl) no one gave us a chance, but we knew that beating them wasn't far-fetched. I think it really opened our team's mind that if we believe we can do it, then it can be done regardless of what people outside of our team think.

Going into this season, we won't lean on that (Rose Bowl) win too heavily, but we will mention the facts about how determination and how guys working together on offense, defense and special units will determine how far we go.

The Buckeye Times: What do you see as your biggest strength as a football player?
Rolle: My biggest strength? I would say my confidence. Coach (Luke) Fickell tells me all the time he likes that I'm confident in what I do because I play better when I am.

The Buckeye Times: Are there some things you feel you need to work on to be a better player this season?
Rolle: Discipline. And I think this is an area that every football player should focus on because you can know the ins and outs of a defense, but going out and executing is the key. And if you aren't disciplined to do it then you won't be successful.

The Buckeye Times: What can you say to those analysts who think you're too small for a linebacker?
Rolle: HA! That's about it. (laughing) Just kidding. Honestly, I would tell them if they think height matters just ask Gary Brackett, Zach Thomas, Laamar Woodley, or London Fletcher about it. God put me in this body to do something great, and because I'm 5-foot-11, 225 doesn't make me less valuable or less able than someone 6-3, 240.

I just tell other players, why get a guy 6-3, 240, whose a huge target for an offensive lineman, rather than a 5-11, 225 pound guy who lifts the same amount of weights as that 6-3 guy, but is faster and can avoid and take on blocks just like that supposedly "prototypical" NFL linebacker?

Size is more than what's on the outside.

The Buckeye Times: Have you patterned your game after anyone?
Rolle: I grew up a 'Canes fan (Miami, Fl.) being that I am from south Florida. I always loved how Jonathan Vilma and Jon Beason played. Guys who aren't the biggest but they aren't hindered by size.

The Buckeye Times: What made a two-time all-state Florida kid come to Ohio State?
Rolle: My recruiting coach was my biggest influence ... Tim Beckman. He really sold me on the program and when I came up to the 2006 OSU-Michigan game, I knew this is where I needed to be.

The Buckeye Times: Are you used to the bitter cold winters yet?
Rolle: The winters actually aren't as bad as they seem ... well at least not for me. I love the snow because growing up it was rain and sun, that's it. But being able to actually get full seasons is awesome.

And the snow is cool to play in. It's still new to me in a way, but at the same time I'm used to it.

The Buckeye Times: You seem to have football in your blood, with your brother and cousins all playing at one time, either in college or the NFL. Did you guys have some killer backyard games growing up?
Rolle: Well, Antrel (Rolle), Samauri (Rolle) and Myron (Rolle) are cousins of mine, but my oldest brother William played ball at Illinois State. Growing up, we never really played together ... I wasn't into football as a kid. I know that may be hard to believe, but the contact part was what I was afraid of (laughing), but I eventually grew to love it.

The Buckeye Times: I see you're an education major ... what are your plans for the future with that?
Rolle: Actually, I'm in Sociology, and I'm planning on coming back to get a secondary degree in education. I love children and I have a saying, "Children are our tomorrow!" And that's why I want to go into teaching and rehabilitation for at risk children.

The Buckeye Times: What do you like to do with your spare time?
Rolle: I love playing Call of Duty (video game). When it first came out I wasn't interested, now I spend hours playing online. I also love reading books like 'Native Son,' 'The Alchemist' and 'Sula'. 'Native Son' and 'Sula' are two books I read in African American studies and I went to buy them to read again, because they were really good.

The Buckeye Times: Tell me something about yourself that maybe people or fans don't know about you?
Rolle: Hmm ... I'm scared of spiders and frogs (laughing).

The Buckeye Times: Wow!
Rolle: It may be funny but it's the truth.

The Buckeye Times: Last question ... What will you remember most about playing at Ohio State when your college career is over at the end of this season?
Rolle: Playing here must be the closest thing to heaven. Really, I mean it's amazing to be in a place where the fans truly cherish their football team and stick behind them win or lose. We players love them, too. I feel a sense of accomplishment playing here, we are a special breed of football players with a great opportunity.

I will remember the relationships built, like camp memories, summer days conditioning and the bowl trips.

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