TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The process that began about a year ago is down to its final stage.
Though Greg McElroy has four regular football season games left in this season to occupy his mind, the Rhodes Scholarship is a likely distraction at this point.
The Alabama starting quarterback recently learned he was named a finalist for the prestigious award that would pay for additional schooling at Oxford University in England.
It all comes down to the final interview set for Nov. 20 in Birmingham when and where he’ll learn if the scholarship is his.
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“That was not something I had anticipated when I came to school here, but when the opportunity presented itself we wanted to make the most of it and up to this point we have, so I am very pleased and honored and looking forward to giving it my best shot in Birmingham.”
Fortunate scheduling conflicts kept the fifth-year senior from having to make a difficult decision for McElroy, who is preparing for a showdown with No. 12 LSU at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge. The sixth-ranked Tide was originally scheduled to play Georgia State on Nov. 20 in Tuscaloosa, but the game was moved up two days to Thursday to give Alabama more time to prepare for Auburn.
“I remember (former FSU player) Myron (Rolle), when he went through the interview process, he had to fly and I think he caught maybe the fourth quarter of his game, so I’m fortunate to not have to miss any time and hopefully give it a good shot up there,” McElroy said.
The 2008 winner from Florida State may be the highest profile athlete to win the scholarship outside of Bill Bradley, but he isn’t alone.
And playing a sport certainly doesn’t hurt an applicant’s shot at landing one of the coveted 32 scholarships to the premier postgraduate school.
The website for the Rhodes Trust spells it out quite plainly:
“One of the criteria cited in Cecil Rhodes’ will was ‘… the energy to use one’s talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.’”
The frequently asked questions passage about athletics goes on to say it isn’t a final decider.
“I think it’s fair to say today, however, that only rarely does athletic distinction alone tip the scales for a selection committee,” the site reads. “Certainly, the absence of any organized sports does not disqualify anyone.”
In the past four years, two other football players joined Rolle at Oxford. Nate Herring (Miami of Ohio/Yale) did so in 2006 and UCLA offensive lineman Christopher Joseph was a member of the class of 2009.
If McElroy hopes to join the elite club, he’ll have to do well in the interview the weekend before Thanksgiving. According to the Rhodes Scholarship website, the process could last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes but typically run closer to 20.
“The practice I’ve had talking to (sports writers) over the years, I would think I’d be very well prepared I’d like to think,” McElroy said, smiling. “(It’s) tough to say because I’ll be going up against some great competition, which I’m looking forward to. Should I be given the opportunity to be a Rhodes Scholar, it would be a tremendous achievement not only for myself but also for the university, so I want to do my best and represent the University of Alabama the best I know how.”