Sometimes in life, to get where you want to go, you have to start over. For Fred Rouse, he's getting his do-over and it's miles away from where his dreams all began. He was a star high school wide receiver for Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln High School. Rouse, 6-3 and 190 pounds, was one of the nation's top prospects among the Class of 2005. He signed with the local power and the team he dreamed of catching touchdown passes for, Florida State.
Rouse was extremely comfortable with his decision to play for the Seminoles. After all, FSU was like a second home to him. But things didn't go according to plan and after less than a year in the garnet and gold he was dismissed from the team. After months of trying to get his life in order outside of the game of football, Rouse finally has a new home as he is transferring to UTEP.
“I am on my way now,” said Rouse from the airport in Jacksonville. “I get there today and I am so happy to start all over once again. It has been a very humbling experience for me and what I have had to go through just to get here once again. But I sit here and I can tell you I am humbled, thankful and ready.”
Rouse wasn't just an ordinary wide receiver coming out of high school. He was one of the most complete receivers to come out of the Sunshine State in many years. Rouse has all the physical tools to be a superstar. Many in Tallahassee compared him skills to Randy Moss. Even Randy Moss would admit the same. But with all that talent you have to walk a straight line and carry a good attitude. That was something missing from Rouse while a 'Nole.
“I was frustrated there (Tallahassee). I kind of feel the coaches misled me because they were always on me so hard if I did something wrong. Maybe the expectations were too high. I don't know. I always felt I was doing something wrong and I made a lot of mistakes. I didn't have the right attitude and I wasn't humble at all. On top of that, I ran around with the wrong crowd. There is no one to blame but me and I have learned from my mistakes.”
Rouse thought he should have played more as a true freshman wide receiver last season. He did play in 11 games and caught six passes for 114 yards with one touchdown. Then, after getting in some trouble off the field and not keeping up with his school work, Rouse was dismissed from FSU in January.
Since then, it has been a long road for the troubled wideout. He went from being courted by everyone in the country to practically no interest whatsoever from anyone.
“They have been with me from the beginning and they are going to get everything I have. I have to sit out this season and then I know it's all on me. I also know the sky is the limit. But now I have to start at the bottom and earn my way to the top and that's only going to happen with hard work. My goal is to be humble, be a leader on and off the field and just be the best person I can be. I just feel so blessed to get another chance.”
The transition for Rouse from Florida State to UTEP should be as smooth as one would expect in this situation. To help him in transition, there will be two familiar faces on campus. Wide receiver Lorne Sam, a former teammate at Florida State, transferred there last year. And his wide receiver coach at UTEP is former Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards High School star and former Alabama wide receiver Antonio Carter.
Fred Rouse is getting a fresh start and a second chance. This time he hopes to make good on the promise that he has both as a player and as a person.