By ADAM SHINDER
Amsterdam's Tyler Rouse has kicked himself right up to Division I football.
Rouse, a 2012 Amsterdam High School graduate who served as the Rugged Rams' placekicker in 2010 and 2011, spent his first two collegiate seasons handling the kicking duties for Division III Springfield College. For the coming school year, however, Rouse has made the decision to transfer to the University of New Hampshire, which plays in the Colonial Athletic Association of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision -- formerly Division I-AA.
Following two successful seasons booting the ball for Springfield, the opportunity to move up came through for Rouse thanks to his friendship with another former Section II kicker, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Paul Layton, who followed a similar path by starting his college career at the FCS level with the University at Albany before transferring to Temple University of the Football Bowl Subdivision -- the former Division I-A.
"(Layton) hooked me up with a guy from Buffalo who's a recruiter all across the country," Rouse said. "He gave me a list of schools that were looking for a punter or a kicker, and I saw UNH -- and I actually applied to UNH when I was a senior in high school. I talked to the coach (Sean McDonnell) and he ended up being from Saratoga. He knew everything pretty well, he knew (former AHS head coach) Pat Liverio and everything took off from there."
Though he'll have to sit out a year while moving from Division III to Division I per NCAA transfer rules, Rouse said he's thrilled about the move to a Wildcats program that's made the FCS playoffs for 11 straight seasons and reached the national semifinals in 2013.
"I've never been so happy about it," Rouse said.
Rouse is coming off a strong sophomore season at Springfield that saw him serve as the Pride's primary placekicker and punter. He converted 33 of 38 extra point attempts to finish third on the team in scoring, averaged 53 yards per attempt on kickoffs and boomed 29 punts an average of 42.1 yards, landing five of them inside the 20-yard line and uncorking seven kicks of 50 yards or more -- including a season-long 67-yard punt.
He'll spend the next season sharpening up his game with an eye on taking over a starting role for UNH when he can resume the first of his two remaining years of eligibility in 2015. He'll have the opportunity, as Wildcats starting punter Brad Prasky will be a senior this season and the team will be turning to a new placekicker this season after the graduation of Mike MacArthur.
"I see this year as a training year," Rouse said. "It's a year to get better, so instead of going in as a mediocre, average punter, I can go in as a great punter and become very accurate. I'm looking at becoming All-American, first-team, second-team when I get in there, just because I'll have this whole year of training.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Rouse will also get the chance to play close to home when he returns to the field, as the Wildcats are scheduled to visit CAA rival UAlbany in 2015. When that day comes, he's hoping that Layton, who gave him the leg up to get to UNH, will be able to be in the stands -- if he's not too busy.
"(Layton) said he's gonna try and make that game in two years," Rouse said. "Two years, that's a lot of time, so hopefully he'll be in the NFL by then and I'll have that starting spot, so we'll both be able to see each other."
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