Rolle gets a shot with Buffalo
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Former Catawba coach Chip Hester describes cornerback Jumal Rolle as polite and respectful, but don’t confuse polite and respectful with meek.
“Jumal’s got a little swagger to him, and I mean that in the best possible way,” Hester said. “As a cornerback, you’ve absolutely got to have that.”
Rolle, who had an All-America senior season to cap a fabulous, 16-picks career at Catawba, got a phone call from the Buffalo Bills over the weekend. He has signed an undrafted free agent contract and will report for his first NFL camp on May 10. Many believe Rolle has a legitimate chance to make the Bills’ 53-man roster.
“Cornerbacks are the toughest thing to find,” Hester said. “Jumal is that prototype guy, and that’s why half the teams in the NFL came here to see him. Line up a whole bunch of guys, and you’d pick him out as the one who’s an NFL cornerback.”
That’s true enough. That Catawba ‘C’ on Rolle’s helmet could just as easily have stood for Colorado or California or Cincinnati. He looks the part.
Rolle is a shade under 6 feet tall and weighs 188 pounds. That’s nice size for a corner, and he has enough speed. On his March pro day workout at Wake Forest, he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, and he plays faster than he times and changes direction smoothly. His vertical jump is 36 inches. He’s also a stout corner physically. He has linebacker arms and bench-pressed 225 pounds 17 times on his pro day workout.
A native of Wilson who graduated from Beddingfield High, Rolle watched the draft with family. The phone rang often.
“The Bills had been one of the teams that looked at me, but I didn’t really have an idea it would be them,” Rolle said. “Not until they called Saturday and told me that while they didn’t have a pick for me, I would be a priority guy for them after the draft if no one else took me. I sat down with my agent after the draft, and we agreed Buffalo was the best option.”
Rolle’s conversations with elders are still punctuated by “yes, sirs,” but he never played like a yes-sir guy. He was fast and physical, quick enough to sprint with wideouts and rugged enough to be a run-stopper.
As Buffalo regional scout Tom Roth said on the Bills’ official website, “Rolle pretty much dominated Division II — which you need to do to have a chance in the NFL.”
Rolle did dominate. He picked off six passes last fall and broke up 10 more, and it’s not like opponents were gameplanning to go at him. He also forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles, made 56 tackles and blocked four kicks.
His excellence on special teams was a factor in his being signed. It’s like the Bills got two prospects — both a corner and a special-teams playmaker. That could make a difference as Rolle wrestles for a roster spot.
“Special teams are huge at the next level and a lot of attention is given to special teams,” Rolle said. “I’m hoping that gives me an edge.”
Rolle had a difficult 2012. He lost his mother, Letitia, in the summer. Then Catawba struggled through a losing fall.
“We lost a lot of close games and I learned you should never take winning for granted,” Rolle said. “I just continued to work hard week after week, and I believe good things will come if you stay patient and keep working.”
Rolle’s former coaches and teammates will monitor his NFL quest closely and will be rooting for him.
“Every scout that came in here, I told them if they liked Jumal on film, then they were going to love him as a person,” Hester said. “He’s gifted physically, but more than that, he’s just a tremendous young man. We’re excited he’s earned a shot. A shot is all you can ask for.”