HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - James Rouse realized this year that college football can be fun, and rewarding, when you're healthy. So why would the Marshall defensive tackle let the fun end after just one healthy season?
Rouse, who was eligible for a sixth year to play, will take advantage of it. So after he plays in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl versus Maryland, the first-team all-Conference USA selection will return to the Thundering Herd in 2014.
He said he came to the decision a couple of days before the Herd's Conference USA title game at Rice.
"It was the success of this season, all my teammates, all the people who I was with and my coaches," he said. "I felt like it would be great to have another opportunity to come back and have another successful season with the team."
Rouse started 12 of Marshall's 13 games this season. He leads the team with 12 tackles for a loss, a total that's tied for fourth in Conference USA with Louisiana Tech's Daniel Cobb. His four sacks on the season is second on the team to Ra'Shawde Myers 4.5, and he's recorded 35 total tackles with five quarterback hurries and three pass breakups.
The best part, he said, was playing an active part in Marshall's defensive success, rather than just being a spectator.
"I just missed out on that in previous seasons," he said. "It was nice to be able to have that enjoyment. I wanted to continue it for one more year. I was ready to get out there and was glad to be able to this year."
Rouse's teammates voted him both defensive and overall team MVP, which was announced at Sunday's team banquet. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said that was a testament to the respect he's earned in battling back from a 2011 back injury and a 2012 Achilles tendon injury that robbed him of all but three games in those two seasons.
"He's not only a great leader, but has been a great player," Holliday said. "I can't think of a guy that deserves it more than he does because the adversity he's been through and how he fought through it."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE END Jeremiah Taylor won't be able to gain a sixth year of eligibility, but he will have the chance to play one more game in a Marshall uniform. Taylor has been practicing in a red non-contact jersey after missing 10 games with a back injury, and hopes to start hitting by the end of the week.