I thought I didn't know the name Ronald Rouse. When it comes to TV, it seems as if the air time is all for the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. You'll see a few defensive plays here and there, but for the guys in the trenches it's all hard work and no glory - no press clippings in the paper and no highlights on the Zone. Defensive lineman Ronald Rouse collapsed during Hartsville's game against Crestwood and when I first saw it on Twitter, my stomach sank to the bottom of my feet. Our news department deals with tragedy on a regular basis and I consider myself fortunate that it doesn't cross over to local sports nearly as much.
Hags and I have been covering high school sports for the better part of 15 years around here and we mean it when we say we have a true connection to the communities we cover. When I think of Hartsville, my memories flood back to so many happy times: when I nearly fell out of my chair when Jordan Lyles was drafted 38th overall by the Houston Astros in the MLB Draft, standing on the floor in Columbia when the Foxes won a state basketball title and making the trip to Chapin to see an 8th grader hit one of the longest home runs I've seen in a state championship softball game. Sadly, the night Ronald Rouse died is now in my Hartsville memory bank.
Ryan Naquin is a news reporter at WPDE, but a huge help on the Friday night football show. He asked me if he could start going to one game and giving extended highlights and post-game reaction. We were excited and joked about how he would bring a little Sal Palontonio ESPN flare to the show. We had a skull session on Thursday with talking points about Hartsville's unbelievable run game and how a win over Crestwood would put them in the driver's seat for a region crown. The last thing Ryan wanted to do was turn his sports hat in for a news hat.
Doing the Friday night show was not fun and it usually is (even if it gets a little stressful). Talking at the beginning of the show and reporting on a tragedy gave me an unpleasant feeling. What hurt the most is that there was nothing I could do to take away the pain that so many people were feeling. WATCH VIDEO: Beginning of October 5th Chevy End Zone
Friday night's are a blur. I get the same feeling that the players and coaches when they are out on the field. It's the one night where we can reach and out and literally be a part of each community in the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand. We cringe at any little mistake we make in a show, just like players beat themselves up for a fumble or a miscue. To sum it up simply, we want to get it right.
So how do I get Ronald Rouse right? How can I give him a proper tribute? When I heard he had two sacks this season, I was desperate to find a clip of him. I started scouring through our archives hoping that I could find big #74 making a play. For the entire night, I was thinking of Ronald as a defensive lineman. When the show ended, Hags told me that he might have gotten a game ball. And he was right. Last year, we gave the entire Hartsville offensive line an HTC Game Ball and sure enough, the center on the 2011 Red Foxes was Ronald Rouse.
Then I stumbled onto one of the early games of the 2011 season. Due to a tropical storm wiping out most of the Friday night football schedule, there were only a small handful of games that still played. I got to make a long road trip to Hartsville to see the Red Foxes host Lamar. I get excited when I can venture a little further away from the nest. Hags and I make it a habit to shoot video of linemen who catch our eye. We just isolate on some big earth movers and throw them at the end of our highlights, never to see the air. Ronald Rouse caught my eye. He was so much bigger than everyone on either side of the line. My camera pointed on his big cleats and I panned up NFL Films style. Rouse bounced up and down getting ready to go back in the trenches.
Over the next few days, television stations and newspapers will be showing images of an ambulance leaving Kelleytown Stadium with Ronald Rouse. I hope that people can click on the link below and see the Ronald Rouse I got to see - the unsung hero who got a game ball and the mountain of a young man with so much bounce in his step getting ready to play the game he loved. It seems I knew who Ronald Rouse was after all.