Literally. Repeatedly. Unceasingly.
Instead, Jackson, as with any football coach worth the weight of the whistle around his neck, opted to rely on a scouting report. It came from his former defensive coordinator, who while overseeing a P.E. class at Madison High in San Diego took note of a newly-arrived freshman who appeared to loom slightly larger than a lawn gnome and bore roughly the bulk of his backpack.
"Robbie didn't play with us as a freshman, because that was a time when freshmen were still allowed to play Pop Warner," said Jackson, who also serves as the school's athletic director. "But after hearing what my defensive coordinator had told me about him, I just randomly called Robbie into my office one day to talk to him.
"I knew he had been a dynamo in youth football, but I'm sure there had also been people throughout his life who told him he couldn't do certain things because of his size. That only served to fuel the fire. He's probably the most competitive kid I've ever coached."
If Rouse's measurables redefined the meaning of meager, his athletic ability underscored the resolve of the underdog. Despite being 5-3 and weighing 130 pounds, he was fast, he was fiery and elusive as a whisper on the wind. He would play anything, and he played it to beat you, be it on a football field, a baseball diamond, a tartan track or a tennis court.
Although relegated to Madison's junior varsity team as a sophomore, Rouse proceeded to run roughshod through the school's record books in his final two seasons. After rushing for 2,055 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, he finished ninth in California as a senior with 2,390 yards while scoring 39 touchdowns. Rarely playing in the second half of games, he averaged a staggering 12.92 yards per carry, the best per carry average of any of California's top 50 backs. He ranked eighth in the state with an average of 199.2 yards per game and topped the 200-yard mark in eight of his final 10 games.
With the second-guessers sufficiently silenced, Rouse drew the interest of former Fresno State coach Pat Hill, who knew well enough not to tarry over the "small" stuff. With a scholarship in hand and having acquired the moniker "Mighty Mouse," Rouse was on his way to play big-time college football. And at Fresno State, the mouse was about to bully his way into Bulldog lore.
"When I first got on campus, we had some great running backs like Ryan Mathews (a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers) and Anthony Harding (a free-agent signee later released by Green Bay), and I was just hoping to come in and get some playing time and help the team win games," Rouse said. "I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play. I always worked hard during the offseason, and here we are today."
"Here" being 3,868 yards and 33 rushing touchdowns later. "Here" being Rouse's final run at Fresno State, where six games into his senior season he ranks 14th in the nation in rushing (118.5 yards per game) and will exit as the Bulldogs' all-time leading rusher, having eclipsed the school record in a 69-14 rout of Colorado in Week 3. Rouse, who erased the mark of 3,473 yards held by Ron Rivers (1991-93), did so in high style, scoring on school record-tying 94-yard run in a game in which he scored four touchdowns --- in the first half.
"Coming into the season, everybody kept asking me, "When are you going to break it? When are you going to break the record?" said Rouse, who entered the team's inaugural season in the Mountain West 317 yards shy of breaking Rivers' record. "I just had to stay focused on helping the team win. It was tough at times, but once I finished that (94-yard touchdown run) and broke the record, it was kind of a relief. At the same time, it was really a great feeling."
And further confirmation that being diminutive need not be linked to being discouraged.
"When I'm out on the field, I feel like I'm 6-2 until I look at the film and see the size difference," said Rouse, who is listed at 5-7, 190. "But when I'm out there, I feel bigger than anybody. I just love the game and I play with a lot of passion. I've always been a competitor and I like to compete at the highest level. I know (breaking the record) is looked at as a big accomplishment, but I'm always going to keep moving forward and give my team everything I've got."
That approach was particularly evident during the offseason, when after 15 seasons Fresno State parted ways with Hill and hired Tim DeRuyter, leaving Rouse to spend his final season under the direction of a new staff. Rather than grumble, however, Rouse encouraged teammates to embrace the transition, throwing his support squarely behind DeRuyter even though the former Air Force and Texas A&M defensive coordinator had never been a head coach.
"When I first met with the team back in December, I thought Robbie was an extremely high-character young man," DeRuyter said. "I just got a great sense from him that even though Coach Hill and his staff had recruited him he was willing to go all-in with this new era of Bulldog football. I really appreciated that. He's got such respect from our entire team, our coaching staff and our administration just because of the way he conducts himself. For someone like him to step up and say, "Guys, this is the new direction we're going," was huge in our transition.
"He's a guy that has an unbelievable heart. He's probably as hard of a worker as anyone we have on our team. He's got tremendous vision, balance and strength and it just happens to be packaged in a 5-foot-6 frame. He's a guy who doesn't mind mixing it up. He doesn't mind running between the tackles and he can make guys miss in space. It's amazing to see what someone with those kind of measurables can do.
"He runs like he's got a chip on his shoulder, like people have been telling him his whole life that he's too small. He's set out to prove everybody wrong and he's done a great job of doing it."
But time grows short, and Rouse, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game this season and the 17th of his career with 124 yards in Saturday's 28-7 win at Colorado State (he also caught a career-high nine passes), is acutely aware of the ticking of the clock. With the final season of his college career having reached the midway point, he'd like nothing more than to turn back time, to stave off that day when he'll ultimately bid farewell to Fresno State.
"Every season means a lot, but this one is special because I know these are going to be my last games as a Bulldog," he said. "You're always going to remember your first three years, but it's always your senior year that you look back on. I'll always remember walking on campus as a freshman, and now I'm already going into my (seventh) game as a senior.
"I've played football since the age of 6, so it was always a dream of mine to do what I've done and to be able to play as long as I could. There have always adjustments along the way, going from flag football to Mighty Mites, from Pop Warner to high school and from high school to college. I've just always found a way to adapt to that next level and adjust my game.
"But all I really wanted was the chance to play Division I football. Being smaller, who knows if any other Division I schools are going to be interested in you? But Coach Hill and his staff gave me that opportunity. All I've done is tried to make the most of it and help my team win."