Rouse-ing addition for Stamps

Stampeders wide receiver, Fred Rouse during practice at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 11,...

Stampeders wide receiver, Fred Rouse during practice at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 11, 2011. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:12 AM ET

CALGARY - Fred Rouse was supposed to be on a rocket-ship to stardom, not an airplane to Canada.

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the speedy receiver, the latest addition to the Calgary Stampeders’ practice roster and a once highly-touted prospect turned cautionary tale for youngsters chasing professional pigskin paycheques.

While other members of his high-school recruiting class are now standouts in the NFL, the 25-year-old Rouse is anxious to show he’s still blessed with the same talent that once put his name near the top of the list of soon-to-be stars.

“You would not believe how many guys call my phone to this day — Kenny Phillips, Mark Sanchez, DeSean Jackson. It’s amazing how those guys call me and say, ‘Fred, where are you? Man, hurry up and get here,’ ” Rouse said. “That motivates me.”

For three-down football fans that don’t keep close tabs on the action south of the border, here’s the rundown.

Sanchez is now in his third season as the starting quarterback for the New York Jets and has already made NFL history, becoming only the second signal-caller to lead a team to the conference finals in his first two seasons.

Jackson is a star wideout for the Philadelphia Eagles, a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his first three professional campaigns.

Phillips, meanwhile, is a starting safety for the New York Giants.

And Rouse? On Tuesday, he was officially added to the Stampeders’ practice roster and ran routes with his new teammates at McMahon Stadium, the latest stop on what’s been a windy road.

After his senior season at Lincoln High School in Tallahasee, Fla., in 2004, a well-respected recruiting service had Rouse ranked as the sixth-best football prospect in the U.S. that year.

He was second among receivers on a list that also included Jackson (18) and Mario Manningham (45). Rouse was also listed ahead of Sanchez (7), current NFL running backs Jonathan Stewart (10), Darren McFadden (23) and Jamaal Charles (57) and defensive end Ndamukong Suh (51), an emerging star for the Detroit Lions.

Stamps rookie safety Demetrice Morley (21) and running back LaMarcus Coker (71) also cracked the list that year.

Rouse had scholarship offers from several powerhouse NCAA programs but chose to stay close to home with the Florida State Seminoles.

Just weeks after starting as a freshman in the 2006 Orange Bowl, Rouse dismissed from the Seminoles program for failed drug tests, then arrested for stealing electronics from the apartment of a former teammate.

He transferred to the University of Texas-El Paso but left that program after only one season with the Miners. Rouse returned home to Tallahasee and eventually violated his parole by failing a mandatory breathalyzer test, resulting in a 60-day jail sentence that he says “changed my life forever.”

After signing Rouse to a practice-squad deal, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel told reporters the new guy “made some mistakes and has learned from it. We hope he’s on the right course right now.”

Rouse, who finished his collegiate career with the Concordia-Selma Hornets after being released from prison, is anxious to prove it.

He insists he can still be a playmaker on the field, but he’s no longer a trouble-maker away from it.

“One thing I’ve never done is dwell on the past,” Rouse said. “It happened, and I admit to it. Yeah, I did all of it. Any of the worst things you heard, I did, but I’m a totally different person now.

“I’ve moved past it now. It’s crazy that, to this day, I can be in California or here or Omaha, Nebraska, and there’s somebody that knows Fred Rouse. And the Fred Rouse they know of is the Fred Rouse from about five years ago. So when they see what I’m like, they’ll say, ‘Dude, you changed so much.’ That’s what I want to hear.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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