Running Down a Record
Sept. 14, 2012
FRESNO, Calif. - When Robbie Rouse came to Fresno State as a freshman in 2009, probably no one but him ever thought he would wind up being considered one of the best running backs at a school known for having great tailbacks.
He didn't look like your typical star running back, standing at only 5-7. But anyone who didn't think about that back then quickly realized his heart was bigger than anyone else's.
The passion and intensity that he plays with coupled with his ability to make plays has made him a fan favorite and one of the nation's elite.
After three years of hard work, he is now 79 yards away from becoming the all-time leading rusher at Fresno State. It's a monumental record and one that has stood since 1993, when legendary Bulldog tailback Ron Rivers ended his career with 3,473 yards.
There has been a lot of talk about the record - from the media and by teammates - but to Rouse, it is not the record that matters to him.
"It's definitely something that is talked about, but I try to stress to them that I'm looking forward to winning games," Rouse said. "If we are winning games and all that, [the record] will take care of itself."
After a 4-9 record in 2011, a win to start off his senior season put a smile on his face.
"After last season, it left a bad taste in our mouths so for us to start like we did and come out with that victory meant a lot to us," Rouse said after rushing 22 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening victory over Weber State.
That game tied him with Ryan Mathews for second place on the school's all-time rushing list with 3,280 yards. He then surpassed Mathews by rushing for 115 yards and one touchdown last weekend at No. 4 Oregon.
Rouse and Mathews were teammates in 2009 - his true freshman year. Rouse came to Fresno State out of San Diego's Madison High School and beat out senior Lonyae Miller, who spent the 2012 preseason on the roster of the Oakland Raiders, for the role as backup to Mathews.
Mathews led the nation in rushing with 150.7 yards per game in 2009 and was a Pro Bowler last year for the San Diego Chargers. Rouse ran for 479 yards and four touchdowns his freshman season. After that, his career took off.
Three years later and Rouse found himself on the preseason watch lists for four national awards, including the Doak Walker Award for the nation's top running back and the Walter Camp Award that honors the nation's player of the year.
Comparing Rouse to Rivers, one can find a lot of similarities. Both are similar in stature (Rivers was 5-9) and shared the backfield with other future NFL tailbacks (for Rivers, it was Lorenzo Neal and Anthony Daigle). Additionally, the two shared the same view on breaking the record.
"You know I never even thought about it," Rivers said. "I'm really a quiet guy, nonchalant, don't really do a lot of the hoop-la thing. So when I broke it, actually my head coach [Jim Sweeney] had to come over to me and tell me I had just broken the record.
"So I had no clue. It didn't really hit me, even to now. I never thought about holding the record that long."
Rivers, who now lives up in the east Bay, says Bulldog football has been a big staple in his life and that there is a big sense of pride in all Bulldog tailbacks.
"We've always had the best group," Rivers said. "It was one those deals that coach Kelly Skipper, who was our coach back then, instilled in us. Knowing the old-time veterans and doing your part to make this stadium better. It was Michael Pitman, Ryan Mathews, Robbie, all these guys that came through, we just look at it as we still have the best group.
"If you go to the NFL, you talk about your school. It's still a big deal for us and we just feel like we've had one of the best running back groups around."
Being the current holder of the baton, Rouse is doing a fine job holding up the tradition that the tailbacks before him started.
"Coming to this school, it is known for having great running backs," he said. "For me to have a chance to break this record is just an honor."
One day very soon, Rouse's name will be at the top of the record list. The question then becomes, who will be the next great Bulldog running back?
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