Nov. 2, 2011
FRESNO, Calif. - In a game dominated by the giants and physical specimens, 5-7, 185-pound junior running back Robbie Rouse has proven heart and passion outweigh ones size and stature. In fact, he has proven that he is a phenomenon all of his own.
Rouse is the smallest player every time he takes the field, but he makes the biggest impact on the game. He is an every-down back for the Fresno State Bulldogs, one that is as fierce as a pass blocker as he is tenacious of a runner.
Raised by a single mother in a hard-nosed neighborhood in San Diego, Rouse learned from an early age that he had a passion for the game of football and what it took to get on the field.
"Growing up, I always didn't want there to be a reason for the coach to take me out," said Rouse, who started playing football at the age of six. "I wanted to be able to catch and be able to block, so I can be on the field and be that every-down back.
"I know I'm a lot smaller than a lot of other backs, so I don't want any other excuse to be taken out. I just love to play the game and I'm giving everything I can for my team each and every play."
The effort and intensity that Rouse displays on every play can't necessarily be measured with statistics, but he does have the numbers that stack up with the best running backs in the nation.
Heading into Saturday night's 7:30 p.m. home game against Louisiana Tech, Rouse is fifth in the nation with 192 carries and he is eighth in rushing, averaging 123 yards per game.
His toughness and durability has been on display since he arrived on campus and he is on the verge of becoming just the fourth Bulldog running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
With five games to play in his junior season, Rouse is already the fifth-leading rusher in Fresno State history with 2,592 yards. He only needs 882 yards to break Ron Rivers' 18 year-old school record for career rushing yards.
However, it is not the records that motivate Rouse, it is his desire to compete. He turned the support of his mother growing up into passion to play the game he loves.
"My mom never really pushed for me to play football like you think she would, but she was always just there for me and supported me," Rouse said. "I just always loved the game and loved to play it, so every time I step out there on the field I'm playing it like it was my last game."
One of Rouse's true joy's in life is competition. He often gets caught up in intense games of dominoes with teammates in the locker room, a game that was taught to him by running backs coach Joe Wade.
"Coach Wade taught me how to play dominoes, but once he taught me a few things I just took it and ran with it," he said. "I'm just a competitor. Whether it's tick-tack-toe or rock-paper-scissors, no matter what, I'm trying to win. That's just the motto I have. I'm competitive, I can't help it."
His competitive spirit has led to the success that he has achieved, and he has done so against one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Fresno State has played the likes of California, Ole Miss, No. 5 Boise State and No. 10 Nebraska. His passion to compete is on display every time he takes the field, but it especially was in the Sept. 10 game at No. 10 Nebraska.
Fresno State ran 81 offensive plays in the game and Rouse did not come off the field for one of them. He finished it with 169 yards rushing on 36 carries, which are the fourth-most carries ever against a Nebraska defense and the 14th-most rushing yards that Nebraska has ever allowed to a single tailback.
Fresno State, sitting at 3-5 on the year and 2-1 in the WAC going into the weekend, has to win four out of its last five games to become bowl eligible. Rouse said that he is going to take it upon himself to see this team have a strong finish to the year.
"We just got to put all the puzzle pieces together," he said. "Our group is great, but we just have to execute on the small things because we got the tangibles, we got the players, we just got to take advantage of the little things."
And taking advantage of the little things is what the big-hearted Rouse does best.
"We Are Your Team" - Fresno State hosts Louisiana Tech from Bulldog Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game is being televised on ESPNU and tickets can be purchased at gobulldogs.com or by calling 278-DOGS.
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