In a season featuring many Fresno State home wins, running back Robbie Rouse has been a major highlight in almost every one of them.
“He’s a guy that wills himself to be a great player,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “This year is just the icing on the cake of a career that he’s put together over and over again.”
But what makes Rouse, only 5 feet 6 inches tall, such a special tailback and allow him to find so much success in a breakout season? His size appears to indicate that he wouldn’t be succesful. However, Rouse possesses the heart of a lion.
“I think it’s one of those core characteristics that he has that he doesn’t see himself as being 5-foot-6,” DeRuyter said. “He sees himself as a bigger player, so he plays to that level. He’s somebody who gets his inspiration from wanting to prove people wrong, and he’s done that his whole career.”
While others see his size as a hindrance, Rouse sees it as a blessing and pours so much passion and energy into his role.
“There’s nothing I can say. I just have to play as hard as I can because I can only control what I can control,” Rouse said.
DeRuyter has said that Rouse is the heart and soul of the team. His athletic ability and relentless drive are part of what pushes Rouse. His dedication to putting the team first and not worrying what the critics think are trademarks of Rouse’s character.
In the four years that Rouse has played for the ’Dogs, he has achieved many records. Coming to Fresno State in 2009, Rouse emerged from the shadow of former Bulldog running back Ryan Mathews and has written his lore own into school history.
“I just watched him and he’s a great back. He worked hard and I knew I wanted to get there and I just tried to be the best I could be,” Rouse said.
In his two years of starting, Rouse has amassed impressive numbers. Although the 2011 season was consider a disappointment by Fresno State, Rouse was still an offensive bright spot. Rushing for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns, Rouse was able to go for 1,000 plus yards in two straight seasons.
This season, Rouse has been able to do the same, rushing for 1,362 yards and 12 touchdowns. Home field advantage has helped him gain energy as he has gone for more than 100 yards in three of the five games played at Bulldog Stadium.
“We just love playing in front of our fans,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He does that to the fullest. He knows that nothing is promise, and so he comes out and plays hard every set.”
The achievements that Rouse has rushed for this season are remarkable as he has not only broken conference records, but also Fresno State records as well.
In the ’Dogs’ second home game of the season, Rouse was able to torch Colorado State for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He also surpassed Fresno State running back Ron Rivers’ record on a 94-yard run in the first quarter. Rouse not only broke Rivers’ record on this play, but also tied the school record for the longest run.
Rouse in this game demonstrated how important he has been to the Bulldogs’ offense this season.
“He’s a great football player and a big percentage of our offense,” Carr said.
In rising to the top of the Mountain West Conference in its first season, Fresno State has enjoyed many improvements. Defensively, under the leadership of DeRuyter, the ’Dogs have more than tripled their takeaway total from nine to 30. Offensively, they lead the conference in pass offense and are second in total offense.
Rouse has not only been an outstanding rusher, but he has contributed in the passing game as well. On the season, Rouse has caught 49 receptions for 330 yards and two touchdowns. His versatility has been a major factor in turning around Fresno State’s offense this season.
“If he’s not running it and some of my guys aren’t open, I’m trying to throw it to him. So we want to get the ball in his hands because he’s a very special player,” Carr said.
For all his achievements on the field, Rouse prefers to stay humble and hungry. Critics may be quick to point out his relatively small stature should he enter the National Football League. However, Rouse doesn’t worry about what the critics think, as he leads by example.
“I just remember where I come from and it can be taken from me at any moment. I’m just trying to take it all in and live as long possible,” Rouse said.
Whether or not Rouse progresses to the NFL next year, his time at Fresno State will be greatly missed.
Fresno State will have to move on next season, as Rouse will finish his collegiate career on top of the school all-time rushing charts. Rouse’s career as a Bulldog will be remembered by fans, players and coaches, but mainly himself.
Rouse said, “It’s just been a great year for us, especially with it being my senior year – my last stamp on Bulldog football. And when I think back to college football, this is the year that I’ll think of. It’s definitely a great year to think about.”