HUNTINGTON - Marshall defensive lineman James Rouse didn't want to be just a name on the roster when he returned to action this year after injuries cost him most of the last two seasons.
When the Thundering Herd faces East Carolina at noon Friday on CBS Sports Network, he'll be a name among the game's captains.
Rouse was appointed a game captain for the sixth time this season, a testament to his ability to recover from injuries and play a major role in the Herd's defensive turnaround.
"That was one of my main focuses coming into this year," Rouse said. "I didn't want to be just another guy out there. I wanted to contribute to the team. I wanted to help the team win games and be successful."
Rouse got that captain nod on the strength of his performance against Florida International University. Of his five tackles, he had a team-high three for a loss and a sack. He has 31 tackles on the season and his 12 tackles for a loss leads the Herd and ranks third in Conference USA. Rouse thinks he's surprised some people with how effective he's been after nearly two years on the shelf, including himself.
"I surprised myself a lot," he said. "It's different in practice. You have good players there, but you don't have the stats to be able to show yourself against another team. You really don't know how you stack up against competition. I think that really surprised me."
After missing all but three games in the previous two seasons to back and Achilles tendon surgeries, what's impressed Marshall Coach Doc Holliday the most is Rouse's determination to not just return to the field, but to excel on it.
"It's amazing for him to still have the desire to go out there and play after what he's been through," Holliday said. "To come back and want to play football after all the adversity he's been through is amazing. Most people that go through what he has gone through would have hung up their cleats a long time ago, but he's stuck in there."
Holliday said there's a spot for Rouse on next year's team if he wants to file for a sixth year of eligibility. Holliday is sure Rouse will get it, and Rouse said he'll wait until things have slowed down before he focuses on next season.
"That's still in the works," Rouse said. "It's a situation where I'm just praying and seeing whatever's the best for my team and whatever's best for me and everything else will just fall into place."