Being born in Norfolk and raised in Virginia Beach, Aaron Rouse has always had a deep connection with the area. Raised in a single-family home with his mother and 3 siblings, Aaron always knew the importance of family and the community when it came to his upbringing. His grandparents were very influential to his siblings with his mother working and not having a father in the household. His grandfather, the quintessential male role model in his life, gave him 3 important tips that would be the foundation of his life; keep God first, work for everything that you want in life and make sure that your word is your bond. During his teen years, Aaron eventually discovered he had a talent in sports and football has helped paved the way not only as an outlet for stress and anger but also a new way to support his family and change their current situation.
Aaron, share with us how you started playing football. As a young black male growing up in the projects, it was a way to stay busy. It was also a way to learn about discipline, working with others in a team capacity and understanding goals. It was a way to vent frustrations out there on the field. It just so happened that God gave me natural talent and ability. I also had important leaders and community leaders who saw this in me and helped mold me into a young man. I played in all positions. I started off at tight end and worked my way up. I was fortunate enough where I could play linebacker-safety, DB and any position on the field. As you continue to play the game, you continue to develop your skills to where I was offered a full scholarship going into my junior year in high school to Virginia Tech.
When did you know it was time to retire, go back home and do something for your community? Well, I think it was important for me to always stay attached to my community even while I was going to college. I was presented with certain opportunities that many of my friends didn’t have or didn’t have clarity or determination to follow it. I felt as though football opened up other doors for me. I always wanted to be attached so I can give back to the community and show kids that they have to stick to their dreams and believe in themselves. I know when I first got to Virginia Tech, my high school sweetheart and I were having our first kid together. I’m talking about an eye-opening experience. I was a freshman in college, a full-time student, full-time athlete and then I was going to be a full-time father. It’s something that I took very seriously. I told my coach, the legendary Frank Beamer, that “I had to go because I was having a son. Going home to support my family is vital and it’s very important to me that my girlfriend and my son understand that I’m a part of their life and that I will always and forever be. So, I have to go home this summer and work to support my family.” Frank was hesitant and apprehensive because kids who go home don’t always make it back. I gave Frank my word that I will come back in better shape and be that leader that they invested in. I went on to become Freshman All American. I would travel home every other week to make sure my son and family were okay. I was on a full scholarship but I even took out student loans to make sure that I could help support my family. When I would come home, I would make arrangements to speak at local high schools and throughout the community because I saw that the bigger picture. If you believe in yourself and you continue to fight for your dreams and you’re determined you will be successful. With my football career, I didn’t want to retire. God had other plans for me.
How do you measure success? I think success is something that evolves, as a player and as a human being matures. You began to understand what’s important in life. For a long time, I went through life kind of doing everything my way. I made sure I got a full scholarship, I made sure I got to college, I made sure I supported my family. When you make it to the highest level of professional sports, something you fought for all your life, and you feel as though I did this. I got here. What essentially happened to me was that God revealed to me that you didn’t get here alone. I was with you every single step of the way. I couldn’t afford to go to prom. I found $250 in the mall one day just walking. God provided me a way for me to go to prom. He provided me with a car to drive home every other week to see my son. A 1989 Chevrolet Caprice. I love that car. He provided me with a full scholarship. As a young man, I couldn’t afford to go to college. But yet, here I was a full-time student, athlete, and father. God showed me what was very important. It wasn’t the cars that I drove, it wasn’t the amount of money I had, it wasn’t the houses that I lived in, it was and still is the relationships and the inspiration you instill in other people to be successful.
When did you decide it’s time for you to run for office? A lot of it has to go back to wanting to make a bigger impact and influence on where I grew up. I think we have a good solid city, but I know we can be better. We’re not living up to our potential. It started back in 2014/2015 when I got an opportunity to go to the state capital, Richmond, Virginia. I got a chance to just go up there not knowing you needed appointments to see these delegates. I saw doors were open and I was tagging along with a group that was from down here and I just walked into these doors and not really having any party affiliation. I went in there and just shook hands and say “Hey, I’m Aaron Rouse”. I asked them what do you do? I allowed those relationships to grow as I continued to learn. This gave me a real spark of interest to know how our city was being run. I saw where we can be a lot better and I saw that we needed to change the culture not only within our city but within our region because we’re losing. We’re losing the war when it comes to being economically stable, diverse and creating jobs to where we can as a region be successful. I wanted to do more and be more impactful in my community.
Did you ever see yourself getting into politics prior to this?
I didn’t know. I never saw myself getting into politics from here and I still don’t, even though, I understand the landscape of it. I consider myself being passionate about the city I wanted to serve. I had to play with other guys and we all had to work together for a common goal of making sure we are successful. It only took one player to mess that up. So I think in politics, especially when you’re talking about running for city council or you’re looking at it from a regional aspect or you’re looking at it from a state or federal aspect. We are a team. At the end of the day, the Democrats and Republicans need to understand that this is team America and no one wins when you hold American people hostage. There has to be common ground and you have to be open-minded, truthful and honest about where that common ground is. That’s the only way we can work together and be successful. It’s about your habits, humility and putting your pride aside to making sure we continue to serve people. It’s about how we can work together so that the team is successful and that’s the approach that I’m going to bring to the city council. My main focus is making sure Virginia Beach is as successful as it can be and our region comes together.
What makes a Quintessential Gentleman?
I’d like to think that what makes me a Quintessential Gentleman is that I am a moral historian. I’ve looked over history, whether it was World War I, World War II, the Cold War or the fall of the Soviet Union I look at our moral competency. Where we were, where we need to be and where we are. What makes me a quintessential gentleman is that we have to be better morally, principally and get our values in line. At the end of the day, we have to live above the structures that we have placed on ourselves. Human decency comes first. Without that, the structures of society don’t mean anything if I don’t respect you or the next man or my neighbor as a human being.