Alex Rouse has taken the prolific skills he developed at Maryville High School around the world as part of his journey in professional football.
Rouse spent this past summer scrambling out of the pocket and slinging touchdowns just south of the Arctic Circle on the tundra of Finland. The former Rebel quarterback played for the Seinäjoki Crocodiles of the Finnish Maple League, leading the Crocodiles to a regular season championship, the first for the team in 20 years, all while amassing almost 3,000 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns in just 10 games.
“It was an all-around great experience,” Rouse said. “We got to travel all around Europe, see the world and get some stamps on the passport. Playing football, seeing the world and getting paid for it. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Finnish league allows five Americans per team and players from all over the world are brought in to create a truly international competition.
“There are usually about four or five Finnish players on the field and the rest are guys from all over,” Rouse said. “I played with guys from Sweden, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Denmark and Germany.”
Rouse’s international play has given him the opportunity to take his game indoors. He has agreed to play for the Wichita Wild of the Indoor Football League. The Wild ended last season in the conference championship game and return their starting tailback and two large physical receivers that will make Rouse’s job a little easier.
Rouse feels confident in his chances of starting for the Wild but he will likely be facing some stiff competition from former University of Kansas star Todd Reesing, who led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl victory in 2008.
Injury, specifically, a torn ACL prior to his junior season in 2002, slowed Rouse’s development at Maryville. The Eagles saw a player with still untapped potential, though. Rouse rewarded the Carson-Newman coaching staff by being named South Atlantic Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2005, going on to record the second-highest passing efficiency rating in NCAA history his junior season in 2007.
Rouse’s senior season at Carson-Newman, like his junior year at Maryville, would be wiped out by injury.
The fields Rouse will be playing on this season will be much smaller than he is accustomed to with a 50-yard playing surface that is half as wide as an outdoor field. The shrunken field with only seven other teammates joining him may force Rouse to change his style of play and stay in the pocket more often.
“Running quarterbacks like a lot of space and with the smaller field it lessens the angles and makes it harder to run….but as dual-threat quarterback, it will be a good challenge,” Rouse said.
One aspect of the IFL that Rouse finds especially lucrative is that he can opt out of his contract to join a larger league. He has tryouts coming up with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League and the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League among others.
Rouse attributes much of his success and development to what he learned from his coaches at Maryville.
“They taught me to reach my potential and be a good man . . . I had 12 ‘daddies’ looking after me making sure I was doing the right thing. They really took care of me.”