Florida State safety Myron Rolle won a Rhodes scholarship less than three hours before the Seminoles kicked off in College Park against Maryland.
Rolle was one of seven finalists who interviewed in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday. He then boarded a charter plane and flew to Baltimore to join his teammates.
Rolle is the third Florida State student, and only football player, to win the award in the last four years. NCAA shot put champion Garrett Johnson and Joe O'Shea also won. Rolle, an aspiring neurosurgeon, will now decide between the NFL and an all-expense paid scholarship for two or three years of study at Oxford University in England.
He finished the interview in Birmingham, Ala., around 6 p.m. EST before boarding a private plane to catch up with his teammates for the game that started around 7:45.
Rolle arrived in the second quarter but did not immediately get into the game.
Florida State entered with an outside chance of playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game next month. The Seminoles (7-3, 4-3) needed to beat Maryland and have the Terrapins defeat Boston College next week.
Rolle is one of Florida State's best defensive players, but coach Bobby Bowden was quick to allow the student-athlete to miss the start of the game.
"It's a no-brainer," Bowden said earlier in the week. "I know academics comes first."
Bowden, 79, had never coached a Rhodes scholar during a career spanning six decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report