“I’ve got a story to tell. I was shot in the head.”
That’s not how you expect to start a conversation with a Lions training camp hopeful. With that, we present you the story of rookie defensive back Nydair Rouse.
It goes without saying that most players on any given football field have had to overcome some type of adversity to get to this point. Not many have a story to tell quite like the youngster from Philadelphia. His story begins with being shot in the head in 2016, a random act of violence from another vehicle on the road in his hometown.
“It was basically an ambush at a stop sign,” Rouse explained.
“Philly is one of the worst cities when it comes to gun violence. I was driving around with my little cousins, aged four to 13. I ended up driving myself to the hospital with the bullet lodged in my head. Luckily, there was no structural damage. It was a low time of my life. My mom was super scared.”
Quitting football wasn’t going to be an option. Despite losing an off-season to train, Rouse returned to close by West Chester University for his junior year of college and wound up playing two more after that. His junior year, in fact, was the most productive season he had with the program.
The shooting eventually inspired him to take up his off-field passion: Helping at-risk youth. After working at a school that helped youngsters of all ages choose the right path in life, he and his childhood friends started an anti-youth violence program called Anchor’s Camp.
“We help juveniles at risk; teaching them trade skills and financial risks, things like that,” he said.
As he continues to battle it out for a spot, Rouse also knows he can look back at the shooting as a major turning point in his life.
“I take no day for granted,” he said.
“When I come out here, I give it my all every chance I get. It’s a blessing. People get shot and it doesn’t matter where, your hand or somewhere like that and they can end up being crippled. I look at it as a blessing that I’m here. Every day, I strive to be the best version of myself.”
That mindset enabled Rouse to catch on with the Green Bay Packers as a non-drafted free agent in 2019. Despite being cut loose after the pre-season, he said the experience of battling Aaron Rodgers in practice served as a tool to learn even more.
Prior to the pandemic, he suited up with the New York Guardians of the XFL.
“It was a short, but great experience. Just to meet other people from Division II schools was pretty awesome. I used it as a learning tool.”
He still lists his mother, Shanika Rouse, as his No. 1 motivation for everything.
“She definitely held us all together, raising me and my four sisters,” he explains.
“I recently got acquainted with my father, who I didn’t know. That provided me some closure. But mom is definitely the inspiration for holding up her end of the bargain.”
He does indeed have a story to tell. Given what he went through five years ago, no monumental task should prove to be too big.
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