Aaron Rouse knew it was time to return home. The former football safety for Virginia Tech, where he graduated with a degree in sociology in 2007, had just spent three years as a Green Bay Packer and one as a New York Giant when a car-accident injury ended his professional football career. Instead of resting on his athletic laurels, Rouse returned to his Virginia Beach roots to give back to the community that had supported him during his childhood.

Rouse says that helping to provide for his family while growing up in a single-parent household in impoverished neighborhoods taught him responsibility, discipline, and hard work. These qualities put him in a position that would change his life, when, in his junior year of high school, Coach Frank Beamer offered him a football scholarship at Virginia Tech.

Since returning home, Rouse has started a new life centered on community service. In 2016, he founded Rouse’s House, an organization that promotes education and provides a consistent, positive message to remind people to make progress toward their goals.

“I wanted to show others in our community it doesn’t matter where you come from; it’s all about setting goals, being persistent and determined, and keeping a positive attitude,” he says. “The sky’s the limit after that.”

Rouse also leverages his athlete status to be a role model for youth. He has coached a middle-school football team, spoken at an anti-violence event, and helped organize a school-supply giveaway for students in need.

In 2019, he is taking his service one step further—as an elected official on the
Virginia Beach City Council. Although in the past he never would have imagined becoming a politician, he now sees this path as a way to make a difference. It is also an opportunity, he says, to carry out a philosophy he absorbed as a Hokie—leadership is not a self-centered endeavor.

“To be a leader means allowing everyone to voice concerns and choosing the best ideas,” Rouse says. “When you work together, you can accomplish anything.”

Written by Leslie King