SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Gardner discusses the story of Myron Rolle, a college football standout who is now battling on the front lines in the fight against coronavirus.


USA TODAY Sports takes a look at six former professional athletes who are  using their medical careers to fight COVID-19:

Marshall Leonard, MLS: The former New England Revolution defender traded in his soccer jersey for physician attire in the emergency room. The 39-year-old is at a New York-area hospital after completing his ER residency in 2019 at Stony Brook University. He played defender for six seasons and 63 games in the MLS from 2002-07. 

“I use the analogy to sports because that’s all my life was prior to medicine,” he said on “SportsCenter” two weeks ago. “I understand very quickly in medical school and my residency, you understand what sickness is, what death is, and you see that on a daily basis, really, in your residency. At the end of the day, you all have this common goal to get somebody healthy or at least calm their nerves in a stressful time.”

From all of us at the #NERevs, we send our heartfelt thanks to former club alum Marshall Leonard for answering the call in caring for the affected in NYC 🏥

— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) March 28, 2020

Mark Hamilton, MLB: The former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman is graduating a month early from medical school in Long Island (Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell). He’ll start his residency in June at the ICU at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital. The 35-year-old played 47 games with the Cardinals in 2010-2011. 

“I could get the call tomorrow, that it’s time to go in,” Hamilton told The Associated Press. “I have had an incredible journey to becoming a doctor over the last four years, and not once did I think that I would find myself entering the field in a time like this.”

Myron Rolle, NFL: The former Florida State standout is a third-year neurosurgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. The 33-year-old was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft and spent three years trying to make a career in the NFL before retiring in 2013 to go to medical school.

He skipped his senior season at FSU to accept a Rhodes Scholarship and spend the year studying at Oxford in pursuit of his dream: to become a brain surgeon. 

Nate Hughes, NFL: The former Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver is now a first-year resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. The 35-year-old graduated from medical school last year. After an All-American college football career at Alcorn State, Hughes made it on to several NFL practice squads and active rosters but a full-time football career never materialized. He took a full-time job as a nurse in 2011. 

At the end of June, Hughes will move to New Jersey, where he will spend the next three years continuing his anesthesia training while completing his residency at Rutgers. 

“So many people think they know so much about what’s going on, but in the grand scheme of things we really don’t know as much as we would like to know about the virus itself,” Hughes told USA TODAY Sports at the beginning of the month. 

Hayley Wickenheiser, Canadian Olympic ice hockey player: The four-time Olympic gold medalist started attending medical school at the University of Calgary in 2018. She was pulled from her clinical rotation as a medical student in Toronto emergency rooms as coronavirus cases grew rapidly. In Canada, medical students are not allowed to directly treat patients who have contracted COVID-19. So Wickenheiser has been assisting her certified medical professionals by gathering protective equipment for doctors, according to The New York Times. Additionally, Wickenheiser, 41, was one of the key voices to call out the International Olympic Committee for not postponing the 2020 Olympics sooner, helping the Canadian Olympic Committee to pull out of the Games before Tokyo organizers pushed them back to 2021.  

Randy Gregg, NHL: The former Edmonton Oilers defenseman, 64, is now a family physician at a sports medicine practice in Edmonton, and back on a March 10 podcast he urged pro leagues to play games without fans before all sports were ultimately canceled. With the Oilers, he won five Stanley Cups, in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990. Following his retirement in 1992, Gregg completed his residency training program at the University of Alberta.


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