NJ Starz: Lee Rouson 

Hometown: Mount Olive

By Steve Sears

Former New York Giants football star and current Mount Olive resident, Lee Rouson, has a specific goal.

“To continue to be who I am – really. I’m not born a winner and I’m not born a loser,” Rouson says. “I’m born a chooser. I can choose to be who I am – really. It’s the greatest thing in my life right now, and it covers every part of my life. It covers all my relationships: with myself, with my wife and my children, with my grandchildren, with my friends, and with strangers.”

Cecil Lee Rouson’s life has been an education in people, sports, and growth. He has reached the peak as an NFL football player, being a member of two Super Bowl championship teams, and he has also embraced the youth of today, wrapping them in arms of encouragement, urging that they grow into who they want to be – really.

Rouson, 60, was born in 1962 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After his birth, he and his parents headed to New Jersey, and lived for a period in Washington Heights, New York while his father served as a bodyguard for Malcom X. When the Civil Rights leader was assassinated, the family headed back to North Carolina, and Greensboro specifically.

At age 10, Rouson was introduced to a new league called Pop Warner Youth Football. “If you beat everybody, you could go to Florida and play in a Super Bowl for little kids,” he recalls. “I was the ringleader; I got all of my friends to all convince their parents that we were going to make this team, we were going to beat everybody, and we were going to go to the Super Bowl for kids.” The young Rouson was a very good football player at that time, so everyone else bought in. But the team was in a white neighborhood, not in Rouson and his friend’s black neighborhood. Rouson was the only one of his friends to make the squad.

Rouson played high school football for the Walter Hines Page Senior High School Page Pirates. He made the junior varsity team as a sophomore, and as a junior he was a varsity fullback, scoring two touchdowns in his first game. “In my sophomore year, I was growing, and I wasn’t as fast as I was as a junior. I had great vision, and I knew how to get to where I needed to go, but because my body was changing, that was a struggle for me. But I got through it. My junior year, I matured very, very well, and I was put at fullback again. Then after the first game that year, when I had a couple of touchdowns, the story is the coach’s wife said of me to her husband, ‘That’s your tailback right there.’ So, I was moved to the starting tailback.”

Rouson rushed for over 1,000 yards his senior season, and he also played basketball as a junior and senior. The Page Pirates won a hardwood state title in his junior campaign, and his assignment for that championship contest was to guard Ashford High School’s star player and McDonald’s All-American, future Los Angeles Laker forward James Worthy. His senior year, the club was undefeated during the regular season, but lost in the state semifinals.

“I had a great basketball career in high school,” Rouson says. “I played baseball in my sophomore year. Baseball was my first love, but I decided I had to change football. I just dropped baseball and I ran track just to be keep in shape for football.” In addition to sports, Rouson was also president of the student body, and was always involved in many areas of community service.

Schools like Michigan State, USC, Pittsburgh, and Colorado among others came knocking on his door for his gridiron exploits, and he decided to head to Colorado and be a Buffalo. While there, he rushed for just under 3,000 career yards and caught 86 passes for 699 yards, scoring 14 touchdowns, and participated in the Blue-Grey Football Classic after his senior season, where his talents were on display before the eyes of NFL coaches.

Rouson was drafted in the 8th round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants in 1985 and was also drafted with the number one pick by the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Giant blue won out over General red, and Rouson had limited action in his first season, but in 1986, he appeared in 14 games on special teams while backing up Joe Morris in the backfield. He rushed for 179 yards on 54 carries, had eight pass receptions for 121 yards, and scored three touchdowns. In the Giants’ 39 – 20 victory of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, he tallied over 100 all-purpose yards, a Super Bowl record until it was broken. He that season was also named Special Teams Player of the Year.

Rouson played for seven seasons in the National Football League, primarily under Head Coach Bill Parcells for the New York Giants. “That was probably the best thing that happened to me and my NFL career,” he says of playing for Parcells. “If I had played for another team, I probably wouldn’t have made any accomplishments, or the outcome of my career wouldn’t have been what it is if it wasn’t for Bill Parcells. He knew how to meet me where I was, he knew how to shake me. That was his brilliance. He knew how to do it with everybody, and he had his own way of doing it, and he had his own way with me. He was gracious with me, because with the mistakes that I made he could have gotten rid of me from the get-go, took my failures, and he challenged me to overcome them.”

Rouson would snag another Super Bowl ring with the Giants when they defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20 – 19, in Super Bowl XXV.

After his football career, Rouson was Running Backs, Special Teams, and Strength and Conditioning Coach for Mount Olive High School’s first state championship football team in 2004, and in 2013 he started working for Mount Olive Township School District as an aide in the alternative classroom in the high school. But his main endeavor was creating a pilot program for behavior modification for grades 6 – 8. and during the first three years of the program, he presented “Move Your Chains,” where he would bring onto the stage 10-yard marker football chains. In the middle of those markers, he’d stage a show with couches and pictures, mirroring a television show on a TV set. He explains, “My theme was to ‘Move the Chains.’ How do you move forward in your life? How do you move towards your goals? How do you overcome things that have you chained up?”

Rouson called on many inspirational folks for their contribution. “I would bring in all kinds of role models from all walks of life,” he says. “I had a guy who did a sports program at the YMCA, Noah Brown of the Dallas cowboys. I had a pro wrestler; I had a doctor. I had all different kinds of people come and share their hearts and show who they are.”

Rouson, who does outreach for Sports World Ministries by travelling to churches and schools around the country, has served on the Board of the northern New Jersey Chapter for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and has also brought his “Move Your Chains” program outside Mount Olive to watch it grow.

A former Associate Pastor and worship leader at a church in Harlem, Rouson worships at Mountaintop Church. He is a member of the church Board of Directors, serves as a spiritual advisor for the church, and often sings as part of the services. Mountaintop Pastor, Matt Jones, speaks of him highly. “Lee has got to be one of the one of the most genuine, kindest, caring most godly men I’ve ever met. What you see with Lee is what you get. He is genuine through and through. He has a deep love for people that have a very deep love for Jesus. He wants to see all men redeemed.”

Rouson and his wife Lisa have been married for 33 years, and they are proud parents of four children. Their two daughters are Uchenna, 39, and Celisia, 33, and their two sons, Jas Lee, 36, and Jesse, 25. The couple also has eight grandchildren.

Rouson sums it all up. “To continue to be who I am – really. And I back that up with Philippians 1:6: ‘I am sure that the good work God began in you will continue until he completes it on the day when Jesus Christ comes again.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.