Allen Chiu | Staff PhotographerFootball
Overlooked: Interest in local standout Tyler Rouse limited despite explosive talent
Tyler Rouse’s whole family wanted to him to play for Syracuse. He grew up an Orange fan living just miles away from the Carrier Dome. He fondly remembers going to football games, munching on Dome Dogs and taking in the atmosphere.
So when an SU coach came to visit the running back during his senior year and invited him to a camp, it was an exciting proposition for the Baldwinsville, N.Y., native.
But in the week leading up to the camp, Rouse received a phone call.
“They called and said they couldn’t get over my size and they probably couldn’t really keep recruiting me,” Rouse said. “So, therefore, I didn’t end up going to the camp because I felt that I was unwanted and there was no need to go.”
Despite totaling nearly 3,000 yards on the ground and 45 touchdowns during his senior season, Rouse had virtually no offers until last week. His Scout.com page is barren, his Rivals.com and ESPNU pages nonexisten. In a new age of recruiting, fueled by the Internet and television, there’s almost no evidence of the running back who rewrote the Central New York record books and put up unmatched numbers this season.
With two days remaining until National Signing Day, Rouse, New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year, remains undecided on his college future. Despite being one of the best to ever play in Central New York, Syracuse hasn’t made an offer. He had almost no interest from major conference schools until the past two weekends, when he traveled to a pair of undisclosed schools, including one in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The recruiting well ran so dry for Rouse that had a Football Championship Subdivision offered him a full scholarship as recently as three weeks ago, his high school coach Carl Sanfilippo said, he probably would have accepted.
“Honestly, I was a little worried,” Rouse said, “but you can’t have that in mind.”
He isn’t an imposing figure. He stands just 5 feet, 8 inches and is about 205 pounds. Under long sleeve clothing it’s impossible to tell that he overpowers defenders on the field.
But he bulldozed his way to 2,977 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior. The Bees finished 8-2 and won their division. Against division runner-up Fayetteville-Manlius, Rouse ran for 272 yards and four touchdowns. In all but two games, Rouse busted touchdown runs that stretched at least half of the field.
He does his damage on the second level. While his speed is exceptional – he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash – he takes most of his carries between the tackles, rarely settling for edges. After he bursts through the defensive line, he can either overpower linebackers and defensive backs, or pull off devastating cuts to get around opposing defenders.
For nearly two years, Rouse has trained with Vinny Scollo at VB Performance in Brewerton, N.Y. The 28-year-old trainer is gaining a reputation as one of the best and most innovative in the business.
Traditional Olympic weightlifting is part of the workout routines he has for Rouse and the Baldwinsville football team. But most of Rouse’s work is resistance training and lifting on unstable surfaces, all to better the undersized back’s durability, endurance and movement. Even with opposing defenses keying on him, Rouse managed 33 rushes a game, while excelling on the defensive end as a linebacker, too.
“When he came to me, I told him we need to make him as durable as possible and we need to make ready, to basically prepare him for overtime in every game,” Scollo said. “To where he is going to be that strong, and just as strong as the fourth as he is in the first quarter.”
There are no attitude issues surrounding the running back either. He’s “a kid you want,” his high school coach said. He does volunteer work on his own.
“You just can’t say enough about him,” Sanfilippo said. “Never been in trouble a day in this building, never been in trouble a day — that’s hard to find. He’s drug- and alcohol-free. He’s a kid who loves video games and loves football.”
But for whatever reason, Syracuse, the university less than 15 miles down Interstate 690, remains distant. One of Rouse’s former teammates, Nick Robinson, is a guard for the Orange. His high school coach played for SU. But Rouse estimates he received only three letters from the Orange in his four years of high school.
Even with the defections stemming from the recent coaching change – most notably running back Augustus Edwards from Staten Island, N.Y. – no one from new head coach Scott Shafer’s staff has come by with interest in the running back.
“I don’t know if I can feel the same, like the passion and pride into them,” Rouse said. “If they win I’m pleased to hear, but I’m not going to go against them obviously, but there’s kind of like an ‘X’ there.”
Both Rouse and his head coach feel confident that next season, he’ll be playing at one of the ACC schools he’s meeting with. He’ll get his chance against Syracuse, a chance to play in front of friends and family at the Dome, and a chance to play on television stations seen in his hometown.
One comparison Sanfilippo uses for his running back is Ray Rice. Sanfilippo was on the coaching staff for the 2005 Governor’s Bowl, when the former New Rochelle (N.Y.) High School running back won MVP honors after rushing for 122 yards. In size, speed and physicality, Rouse is, in many ways, a spitting image of the current Baltimore Ravens back.
There could be another similarity. Eight years ago, SU missed on Rice and the running back ended up starring for Rutgers and finishing seventh in 2006 Heisman Trophy voting during his sophomore season.
Syracuse never beat the Scarlet Knights during the Rice era. Rouse now seems poised to go to a conference rival as well.
“Would we have loved to have seen him at Syracuse? Yeah, we would have. No doubt, we would have. Didn’t happen,” Sanfilippo said. “ … Kids grow up around here, that’s where they want to play.”
Tony Grosso is now retired, but coached in Central New York for 33 years and still regularly attends Rouse’s games. He’s seen players develop, leave the area and star elsewhere, even going to the NFL. But Rouse is one of a kind.
“I haven’t seen a kid like that around this area ever, realistically,” Grosso said. “What do you got to have to play major college football?”
Recently, Rouse said, he dreamed about playing against Syracuse in the Dome.
It’d be a big moment in his career. His family always wanted a chance to see him play in the Dome, and even if SU never offered a scholarship, it’s his opportunity to prove that’s where he belonged.
“I’m playing with all my heart that game, not that I’m not going to play with all my heart the other games, but I really — I’m going to feel that game something a little more than other games I’ll play,” Rouse said. “I would have a target on my schedule if that was the case because I feel like, maybe not that I deserve to go there or that they should offer me, but I feel like I should have been at least acknowledged a little more in the process.
“Because I am like, right in the back yard and I barely got talked to and I got let up that easy.”
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