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Perseverance pays for Rouse

Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:45 PM

HUNTINGTON -- 714.

Marshall University football player James Rouse will never forget that number.

That's the number of days Rouse sat out injured between the third game of the 2011 season against Ohio on Sept. 17 and the first game of this season when he took the field against Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 31.

It was like a sentence or some cruel punishment for Rouse, who was kept from doing everything he loved. The back injury in 2011 was followed by an Achilles injury in 2012, which meant extensive rehabilitation and a long time away from the field.

Rouse made the most of his return while remembering what it was like without football. He was vindicated Sunday when teammates voted him as the Most Valuable Player of this year's team. The award was announced at the team banquet.

"It just felt good that my teammates wanted to recognize me as that," Rouse said. "From a year ago, me not really doing anything to now being the team MVP, I really appreciate it."

Rouse's MVP status isn't just about his climb back from injury, although given his success, it could be enough to warrant the status.

It's also that Rouse came into the season learning a new position.

When Rouse came to Marshall from Harrisonburg, Va., he was a sleek, 195-pound defensive end.

Now 265 pounds, he still possesses the explosiveness and instincts of an end off the line of scrimmage, but as a defensive tackle also has the strength to get through the meat of the offensive line to make plays and disrupt the flow.

Rouse has 35 tackles this season with a team-best 12 going for loss, including four quarterback sacks.

"He was voted MVP by his teammates, voted captain and of course was all-conference, which is just a great reward for a guy who deserves it," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "I can't think of any guy who deserves it any more than what he does because of the adversity he's been through and the way he's fought through it and come back to have a great year for us."

Heading into the Military Bowl game on Dec. 27 thoughts were that it might be Rouse's final time suiting up with the Herd because of the options he had. But, while he missed two years because of medical hardships, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, but it wasn't known if he would utilize it.

Rouse, who is married, had already graduated and with the injuries he has had could have decided to move on from football and begin a different chapter in his life. And, with the successful year he's had, Rouse also could have opted to move on to the professional ranks and start making a living doing what he loves.

However, while accepting the MVP award, Rouse announced he will indeed come back for another season with the Herd in 2014, marking another key returnee for a team loaded with returning talent.

"There's a lot of different factors," Rouse said. "The NFL? It's always going to be there. College -- a lot of people say you only live this experience once so you need to make the most of it. I only really played one year of football at a high level and I just wanted to do that again and want to get that conference championship because we got so close this year."

Rouse's story has served as an example for many of the Herd's younger players -- many of which had never been on the field with him because of the injuries.

Now, those lessons will continue to ring through for the 2014 team.

And, Rouse already knows what the message will be.

"Anything is possible," Rouse said. "Don't give up on your dreams because anything can happen."

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