By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
With this article, I wanted to take the helmet off of Larry Rountree III to reveal the personality of this North Carolina native. It’s not likely Rountree will become this season’s rookie of the year, as did his fellow backfield mate Justin Herbert. Though I believe he will have the opportunity to make a difference in this team rushing attack this season. I wanted to help Bolts fans learn more about who Larry is as a person and a teammate. Rountree also revealed to me the plan that he had should he somehow didn’t make it in the NFL. His plan would expose the person he has been born to be, and I will share that plan with you after I walk you through his journey, which has momentarily derailed those plans.
As a 2-star athlete coming out of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, Larry Rountree III said he didn’t get his third recruiting star until he received an offer from the University of Missouri. Who made him an offer on the strength of the due diligence of former recruiting assistant and now Tight End coach A.J. Ofodile, who found Roundtree’s highlight tape and shared it with the head coac. After consistent communication with Ofodile, the unheralded Roundtree would graciously accept an offer from the University of Missouri.
With a strong desire to stay near his hometown and play for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Rountree received limited college scholarship offers before he leaned on his belief that “God has a path for everybody.” Not only did he take this belief and his confidence with him to the “show me state” when it was all said and done, but Rountree ended up being named to the conference’s All-Freshman Team in his first season with Mizzou.
After deciding to take his game west to Missouri, Rountree would pile up the accolades. He gained over 3,700 yards rushing in his four years there, on his way to becoming the all-time rushing leader in the school’s history. Additionally, he finished his SEC career as the 16th all-time rusher in conference history. Pretty good for an “overlooked running back,” I’d say.
Rountree played with added inspiration during his home games, as his mom made the 14-hour, 950-mile trek from Raleigh to Columbia, Missouri to see him play. He was able to count on her most home games during his four-year career. During our conversation, Roundtree said with a passion, “That’s why I ran so hard!” With his distinct southern accent, Larry further explained, “My momma driving 14 hours, there and back, I ain’t fixin’ to have my jersey over here clean; we fixin’ to get right! Despite the scoreboard, I’m running hard the whole game.”
Now that he made the Chargers squad, I was curious to hear if he replaced his mother’s car yet. He told me, “It’s in the making; it’s going to happen soon because that car has almost 300,000 (miles).” In his four years at Mizzou, he could recall her only missing one game as she was committed to seeing her only son play college football. That’s one huge sign of love and support.
During his time and the University of Missouri, Rountree majored in Pre-Communications and became a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. I wanted to hear from him how playing football may have made him a better fraternity brother. Or was he a better teammate on the football team because of him being in a fraternity. Rountree would explain to me, “It made him a better football player; because it helped him run with more tenacity.” When I followed up with him, for a deep understanding, he proudly recited the four founding principles of the fraternity “manhood, scholarship, persevere and
uplift.” This foundation helped support his belief, “nobody on the other side of the ball is more sound-based and will play with more tenacity than me. When I get on the field now, nobody is better than me!” This attitude will serve him well in the NFL.
There were many topics I was eager to cover with the Charger’s sixth-round draft pick, one of them being about his draft day process and when he received the call from the Chargers. He and his parents spent the day watching the draft at a modest hotel on a beach in North Carolina and not at home in Raleigh because he “wanted it to be a day for his mom and dad” to enjoy. As anyone would have guessed, he admitted “it was a very stressful” process.
Larry received a call from the Los Angeles Rams, who told him they would draft him in the third round. After that didn’t happen, hope appeared to be gone. But once his phone rang in the sixth round, he went outside to take the call; when he came back into the room, his parents were eager to hear what happened on the call. Larry played it off as nothing happened on the call and would then tell them, “Let’s just see what happens.” Shortly thereafter the Los Angeles Chargers submitted their draft card announcing they would be drafting Larry Rountree III. Just as you might have imagined, his parents exploded with excitement once they heard their son was being drafted into the National Football League.
I thought it would be a fun idea to hear what he thought of his new All-Pro teammates, so I proposed playing a name association game with him. I would mention a player’s name, and I would ask him to tell me the first thing that came to mind about his teammates:
Keenan Allen- “Sporadic!” (Meaning irregular) He would also point out that, “it’s no coincidence he’s from Greensboro, North Carolina! From the crib, just an hour away.”
Justin Herbert- “Bionic Arm! The dude is a great dude; loves the game of football and he’s a great guy to be around.”
Joey Bosa- After laughing he says, “Sun Tan lotion. Joey’s a great dude too; I did not expect that!”
Derwin James- After he sighs and gasps for air, he replies… “DJ; What I think about when it comes to DJ… that dude in an alien, he’s not from here. That dude is a play-er,” Rountree would emphatically express. “I’d say mentor, because he helped me a lot, getting adjusted to the game. I was over there on the defense side of the locker room so he really helped me to get my mind right. He helped me to calm down.”
Corey Linsley- Larry he laughs, “Big vet! He’s a funny dude.”
Linval Joseph- “I’d say mentor. He’s been a mentor too!”
Earlier this season, I wrote about Head Coach Brandon Staley’s unique approach to coaching. From being a people person and a relationship builder first, then a teacher and a coach. I’ve also written about how veterans appreciated his approach, though I was curious on how this coaching style was received by a rookie. So, I asked Rountree about his thoughts on coach Staley, and he would tell me, “Coach Staley is cool. He wants to know what the players want? He wants to know, ’Hey what do you guys think about this, or what do you guys think about this?’ He’s a great coach! He loves the game of football. I love the energy he brings every day when he comes to work.”
As his numbers have shown, Roundtree was very productive while playing for the University of Missouri. His foresight off the field has been just as impressive. He shared some of this with me when I asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t playing football. Had he not been drafted by the Chargers’; Larry shared his plans to go back to Missouri to become a Police Officer. This initial idea came from his experience playing Pop Warner football for Mr. Green. Coach Green doubled as a coach for the Wildersgrove Wolfpack back in Raleigh and a Police Officer.
In his own words, his plan was, if he didn’t make it in the NFL, “I would’ve gone straight to Columbia, Missouri and been a Police Officer. I would’ve been a police officer there for like three years, and then I was going to come back home to Raleigh, North Carolina, and then become a Deputy Sheriff.”
When asked about his reasoning for wanting to become a police officer, Roundtree passionately stated, “It’s the fact that I am doing something that’s helping! Some people want to be an officer to have a gun on their hip. That’s not what my objective was! My objective was to do what Police are supposed to do, which is protect and serve! To uplift the youth and let them know there’s a lot more to life than what you think you can do!”
As a member of the Wolfpack, coach Green provided Larry an example of what this path of becoming a Police could look like while simultaneously mentoring the kids on the Wolfpack. Coach Green/ Officer Green then became Deputy Sheriff then shortly thereafter worked his way to becoming Chief. That memory stuck with Rountree for years and was supported by a conversation he had with one of the Police Officers, who doubled as a Security Officer for his head coach at the University of Missouri. The particular officer mentioned, “you’d be a great Police Officer. You know people, and you know how to talk to people.” These conversations revived his memories of the impact coach Green had on him and his former teammates; as he pondered life after football.
Chargers’ fans should be happy they made the call in the sixth round and forced him to put his service career on hold. After Larry’s first game in the NFL, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley says about him, “This guy brought real physicality. Larry’s a bigger guy, but he’s really strong. He’s a heavier back. Your third back has to be a factor in the kicking game. I feel like Larry is coming on. He’s still at the beginning. We’re trying, the best we can, for this guy to become a complete back, and not just as running back but as a football player.”
After his second game in the league, coach Brandon Staley told us, “I think Larry has proven himself in a short amount of time. We’re excited to have him in that running back rotation. I think he’s proven to be trustworthy. From a physical standpoint, he gives you another dimension as a bigger back, one who packs a punch. Then, he’s done a nice job in the passing game, too, both in pass protection and then hands out of the backfield. He’s been a pleasant surprise that way for us. I like coaching the guy; Larry has played well in the kicking game for us. I’m excited about where Larry can go with his game.”
By being drafted by a team that has a very versatile backfield, Rountree will have a chance to be the hammer when they need that guy. Austin Ekeler will likely lead all backs in yards from scrimmage. Justin Jackson is a shifty runner; with a plethora of moves and will break some defender’s ankles in the open field. Yet, when they need it, on third and three, or third and one, I think this is when Rountree will get his opportunity to shine.
It feels like, and sounds like, Coach Staley has growing expectations for Larry Rountree III. We will see as the season progresses how he handles the opportunities he gets. Kindly share your confidence in Rountree and what you think his ceiling might be this season. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season.
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