You can call him “Tarantula” or “Inspector Gadget” or just plain “Greg.’’
But Greg Rousseau no doubt hopes you won’t call him “unimposing’’ after he attempts to again dominate in the Miami Hurricanes’ spring game on Saturday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Rousseau, the 6-6, 250-pound University of Miami defensive end who wears jersey number 15, has long, quarterback-seeking arms and seems uncannily similar to NFL great and former UM star D-end Calais Campbell. The two met after UM practice Thursday, and Campbell offered encouraging words to the redshirt freshman, believed to be a future force.
An early enrollee last year, Rousseau sat out most of the 2018 season after breaking his right ankle in the second game against Savannah State.
“He’s real cool,’’ Rousseau said just minutes after shaking hands with Campbell, the 6-8, 300-pound Jacksonville Jaguars lineman. Campbell, 32, is a four-time Pro-Bowler who played at UM from 2005 to 2007 and pledged a gift of $1.6 million in 2015 — the largest donation to UM athletics by a former football player — to fund a scholarship in perpetuity for defensive linemen.
“He gave me some tips,’’ Rousseau said. “He said I remind him of him because he’s so big and tall. So I try to be like him.
“He was just saying, ‘Just keep working. Just work hard. Keep pushing.’’
Campbell, who in January won the NFL’s prestigious Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership, posted on Twitter after practice Thursday a photo of himself and former UM star running back Edgerrin James with coach Manny Diaz.
“I have a really good feeling about #TheU right now!’’ Campbell tweeted. @Coach_MannyDiaz has the team looking ready! And can’t wait for @EdgerrinJames to get his gold jacket! #SurroundedByGreatness.’’
In a text message Friday to the Miami Herald, Campbell said, “I really hope GR turns out to be better than me. He has the physical tools and the right people around him to help guide him.’’
Diaz likens Rousseau to the long, rubbery-armed animated character Inspector Gadget, who makes miracles happen with those gadget-packed limbs. Rousseau had four sacks in UM’s first closed scrimmage last weekend, four sacks in last year’s spring game and 13 total sacks in all his scrimmages combined. He had five tackles in the regular season before he broke his ankle.
Others have called him “Tarantula’’ because of those long, dangerous limbs.
Rousseau, an effervescent personality with big dimples and an engaging way about him, was a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and a three-star prospect by 247Sports and ESPN. He played on both sides of the ball and helped lead Hialeah Champagnat Catholic to a 9-2 record and its second Class 2A state title. He had 80 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior, including three sacks in the title game. As a junior wide receiver he earned second-team All-State honors, catching 28 passes for 467 yards and nine touchdowns.
“You certainly wouldn’t know that he’s been hurt,’’ Diaz told WQAM about Rousseau, who turned 19 last week. “He’s just a very, very difficult guy to block. He’s just so long. Remember when you were a kid and your big brother or whatever would put his hand on your forehead and you were trying to swing at him and you couldn’t reach him? That’s about what it’s like trying to pass-block Greg Rousseau. Because he can just stick a long arm in there. His reach is just insane.
“And then he’s got get-off off the ball. He can do some things that give offensive tackles problems.”
Rousseau said Thursday that he is healed from the ankle injury and is now “used to running and putting my hands on people and putting a lot of pressure’’ on his leg. He said he wants to keep gaining weight, but not too quickly so he can maintain his speed. He praised strength and conditioning coach David Feeley for giving him a training regimen that has made him more flexible.
“After I first got hurt my ankle was stiff,’’ Rousseau said. “We’ve been doing stuff like overhead squat. My ankle is feeling way better than January for sure. Way better.’’
Coaches have been playing various D-ends with each unit, but the one who all but has his starting job cemented is junior Jonathan Garvin, with fifth-year senior Scott Patchan also playing with the first unit during spring sessions and tallying at least two sacks Saturday in the first open scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium. “It’s a mixed up, whole bunch of different people,’’ said Rousseau, who had one sack Saturday.
“Greg is a god,’’ said senior middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman. “He’s obviously blessed with length. If he gets a good jump off the ball it’s hard for any tackle to kick back and be able to defend him. He has great lean, and more importantly he has great effort.’’
Defensive coordinator Blake Baker predicts that the bright, “very coachable’’ Rousseau will be an “impact guy.’’
“And I think he can get so much better...He’s naturally gifted. He’s a guy who the good Lord blessed in a lot of ways.’’