OU & Walter Rouse: Everything right about transfer portal

On3 imageby:Bob Przybylo02/20/24

BPrzybylo

That just couldn’t be it for Walter Rouse in an OU football jersey. A memorable year if ever there was one, and it just ends in the blink of an eye.

Rouse simply wouldn’t leave the field at the Alamo Bowl against Arizona. Five years of hard work, of memories, now what?

There’s actually a lot of ‘now what’ for Rouse going forward. It started at the Shrine Bowl earlier this month. And now he’ll get a chance to show what he can do at the NFL Draft Combine next week.

The term one-year rental gets thrown around a lot in the transfer portal. Like how serious can the love and commitment go for a place you’re at less than 12 months?

Turns out it can be a life-changing event for Rouse and for OU. Perfect spot at the perfect time with OU needing a left tackle. Rouse needing a home after transferring from Stanford.

After a brief commitment to Nebraska, Rouse was all-in with the Sooners.  

He was able to check off a lot of boxes for his career, and OU had a quality left tackle to turn things around for the 2023 season. From 6-7 to once again having a 10-win regular season, back to the standard.

“One thing that caught me off guard was just how big of an emotional impact it was, too, and how well I just connected with the team, fans,” said Rouse in an exclusive interview with SoonerScoop last month. “I knew I would connect with them, but it was amazing.

“I mean, the way that Sooner Nation welcomed me with open arms. It was truly an amazing experience. And we had ups and downs. But truly, the ups were amazing.”

It’s hard to organically grow that connection. The fans don’t really know the player until they arrive. Sometimes the player is more focused on Name, Image, Likeness and individual goals than anything else.

But Rouse was different. If you can count all these examples where it feels like the portal isn’t what it was intended to be, Rouse isn’t one of them. The complete opposite, actually.

Rouse going to OU and how that one year turned out for both sides is exactly what the transfer portal can be about.

Rouse got to mark his name in OU lore with his ‘double block’ vs. Texas in the final seconds. And he also got to play in a bowl game for the first time in his career, never ever considering opting out.

Rouse held nothing back in discussing his year at OU, relationship with the coaches, NIL and why he’s officially a Sooner for life.

OU Exit Interview: Walter Rouse

The one year at OU?

Well, I knew this year was gonna be huge for me no matter what going in. Starting in January, but I think one thing that caught me off guard was just how big of an emotional impact it was, too, and how well I just connected with the team, fans. I knew I would connect with them, but it was amazing. I mean, the way that Sooner Nation welcomed me with open arms. It was truly an amazing experience. And we had ups and downs. But truly the ups were amazing.

The one thing I can just think of was the Texas game. I think that’s one of the – I haven’t had an experience like that. Just the atmosphere itself alone, even before the game started in my whole career in college football, and just even going back to the spring game. I mean, I’ve never been a part of spring game that had more than 10,000 people. It was just true to the point that the support Sooner Nation shows is unparalleled. So I was definitely knew this was gonna be a big year for me, but definitely a surprise in some ways. All in a good way.

Alamo Bowl final moment?

I think even last year, before I knew I was gonna hit the portal, and I played my last game, I wasn’t even feeling the way I felt after the Alamo Bowl. And then, even that after the TCU game, I knew I had the Alamo Bowl game left. And then it just truly hit me all at once. Because as I was walking up the field, and I turned around, I was like, dang, like, I will never set foot on a field to play college football as a student-athlete again.

Now it’s onto bigger things with trying to hit the NFL. But it’s truly amazing that this has been five years now, and it’s all coming to an end. And you never really realize like, I mean, our coaches say this all the time, the days are long, but the years are short. And like five years are going just like that, and I definitely did not want to leave the field. I was visibly, as you could see, very emotional. And I just I would have loved to have one more play with my brothers and teammates on the field. It was very emotional. But again, I’m just I’m so thankful to have had that opportunity to play college football.

Bill Bedenbaugh?

Going into the portal, deciding where I wanted to go was gonna be very important for me because this was – I decided to leave Stanford and I wanted to truly test myself more so than what I had at Stanford. And that wherever I go for that one year would be very important. And so choosing Oklahoma and coming to a coach like Bill Bedenbaugh, who I think is the best coach in the country. He truly made a difference with me.

He allowed me to see the game in a way that I had never seen it before. I mean, the way I look at the defense now, I didn’t even think to look at it that way. Or like, how a defense moves, how linebackers were, you’d have the safeties coming down, or the corners and what a blitz would look like. How I would prepare for a game was completely different than how I did at Stanford.

Even starting all the way back in spring ball. It was great. Like the way he had us practicing and working on worksheets and whatnot, it was all built up for training. You can really, really see it all coming together.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to truly practice in spring ball recovering from a shoulder injury. But when I did have to, when I was able to be coached by him in training camp, he really just changed things for me in different ways with my footwork. Over the season, I got better and better. I was mad because I only had the one season. I was like, man, I’m really starting to figure this thing out. And I’m kind of upset that’s how things worked out because I just didn’t have another year with him. I just wanted more and more time. Because I truly believe that he’s helped made me become this great player. But I can be an even better player if I had more time with Coach Bedenbaugh.

More about Bedenbaugh?

Take that coaching with Coach Bedenbaugh right now because it’s so crucial, is going to be helpful so much later on because he talks to NFL guys all the time. They listen to him. He gets a job offer from different colleges. All the time he chooses to stay at OU. That’s because he believes in the work he does and how much he’s committed to making us better.

And I think that’s one of the great things about Coach Bedenbaugh. He, you might not think it because he’s gonna get your face, but he is gonna make you better. He’s not soft on you. And you might think this guy hates me. Like, are we still good? At the end of the day, though, he truly loves us. Truly. He wants us to get better, and he cared for us. And that’s one of the things I was able to see about Coach Bedenbaugh and I really appreciate that about him.

The NIL factor?

I mean, since it’s involved, it did play a role. But it wasn’t the main reason for why. I wanted to go somewhere where I truly thought that I could get the best out of, the coach of getting the best out of me. When I first committed to Nebraska, I had a great relationship with their coaches and I thought that would be a great place for me.

But one of the things I’ll say that I wish I had I could have done it I would have done differently was that – I was always gonna take a little bit more time. I come and visit Nebraska. Made my decision two days later. I made my official visit to Oklahoma as my first official visit. And I wish I just took some time because I truly was, I mean, I told my mom, I was like, I won’t commit on the spot. And Oklahoma when I was there, I was like, let’s just stop with this and commit on the spot.

But then I was like, no, let’s take some time. We can talk it through when we’re done. And then when I started, just thinking about it (after Nebraska commitment), I just don’t feel good. This is not right. I stayed in my room all day, and one of the days and I was literally just thinking this just wasn’t right. And so that’s when I made a decision to transfer. But NIL wasn’t the main reason why, oh, Oklahoma, this is where I’m gonna go. Offered more money from other schools, but I knew I wouldn’t get the same development from that school as I would have gotten at a place like Oklahoma. So I can say it did. But it wasn’t the main reason as to why I pick the school.

So about that double block?

I gotta say, every now and then, sometimes, it happened when I was in the grocery store. I was actually at a Walmart in Florida. And this guy, I recognize you, Boomer Sooner. And he talked about the Texas game and whatnot. So I definitely get recognized a lot more than I thought I would. And people are like, hey man, double block. That’s double block. That’s one of those OU plays in the Red River game that will be remembered for a long time. Double block. Every time. I welcome it.

Brent Venables?

The type of coach he was because he’s a player’s coach and the type energy that he has. You don’t see that in a lot of guys and especially in a lot of head coaches. In the way that, Coach Bedenbaugh might not visibly show that he cares, but like, he does. But Coach Venables, on the other hand, it truly stands out that he wants you to get better. I mean, the SOUL Mission program.

The number one thing he wants in this program is for you to graduate. He’s pushing you to your limits and more. I mean, he has an infectious energy that bled through the phone and text messages or whatnot. This is just the guy I want to play for this guy. I want to go to bat for because I truly bought into what he was saying. It hasn’t worked out for him and past couple of years with the bowl games and whatnot, but I truly believe that he’s gonna have a long and prosperous career at OU. I cannot wait to see what he does.

Final word?

I mean, thank you to OU itself. The fans, the players. I mean, it was only the one year and I couldn’t have imagined it would be this type of year. But from the games, the camps that we did, and I really, I really loved doing the youth camps. That was one of my favorite things to do. All that combined with service trips and getting access to things and the people that I never would have had access to before in terms of like job opportunities and whatnot, just a huge thank you to the people, to Sooner Nation. It was only one year, but I consider myself a Sooner for life.

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