CLEMSON, SC -- I might have been the only interview Brandon Rouse had when he was at
He never played a down for Clemson, never appeared on the depth chart, never
got much of a chance to play in Death Valley. In short, after signing day
1998 he rarely entered the consciousness of most Clemson fans.
But he mattered.
Sometime this August I would have caught up with Brandon Rouse to see how
he's doing. Just like I did the previous two Augusts for the Florence
It's one of the more enjoyable things about doing work for the Morning News
that I get to talk to players from the Pee Dee. Most of the time I know I've
got a scoop.
The lives of players like Rouse, DaMonte McKenzie, Justin Watts and Morgan
Woodward, are rarely important to most Clemson fans, but they matter to
people in the Florence area.
Even when Rouse struggled through two-a-days with a twisted knee like he did
last August, the people of the Pee Dee were interested.
Unfortunately for Rouse, that was the wrong time to be struggling with a
knee injury. After redshirting his first year at Clemson he never earned any
playing time last fall on the defensive line. Rouse knew that he took things
a little to nonchalantly his redshirt year.
"Last year I took it for granted that I wasn't going to play," he said.
"This year I know I'm going to play."
He never did, but that doesn't mean he didn't have an impact. His life will
forever affect the players on the team who are struggling to understand why
their friend died. It trivializes what Rouse did before his death, however,
to think that he didn't have an impact on the team until then.
DaMonte McKenzie noticed last August how far Rouse had come despite the
injury he was struggling with. McKenzie, along with Terry Jolly (who Rouse
called a big brother) and Jovon Bush and the other defensive linemen, helped
Rouse like they had been helped when they were underclassmen.
"My freshman year it was Warren Forney that helped me," said McKenzie.
"Adrian Dingle still calls me today to ask how I'm doing." It helped
McKenzie as much as it helped Rouse when he was able to help him.
Rouse influenced those around him that saw him struggle and still keep his
chin up. Rouse was particularly excited when Clemson's scheme on the
defensive line changed from reading the offensive linemen to attacking.
high school at Darlington I was a 4-3 lineman and everything was attack,
attack, attack," he said. "Everybody has a chance to make plays now."
Rouse was 20 when he collapsed Saturday night from a congenital heart
defect. That's hard to understand. It shouldn't have been the first time his
name was in the paper. It's not the end of his story, though. His life, in
particular his time at Clemson, just reinforced with me that every person on
the team has a story.
And every one of them matters.