Jeff Quinn, team doctor entice 2019 OT target Walter Rouse

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Prior to taking his official visit last Saturday, 2019 target Walter Rouse soaked in everything he wanted to know about Notre Dame, the football program.

The environment during the Michigan game, then, came as no surprise for the three-star offensive tackle. The same can be said for the game day atmosphere and hospitality of hosts Jarrett Patterson, Derrik Allen and Jamir Jones.

“I had never been in that type of environment before. It was just unreal,” Rouse said. “At times, I could not hear myself think. It was so loud. It was such a great game. I had a great time talking with all the coaches and hanging out with other 2019 recruits. It could not have been better.”

What stood out the most to Rouse, though, was his conversation with Dr. Brian Ratigan — the Irish’s orthopedic surgeon.

Rouse, from Washington (D.C.) Sidwell Friends, aspires to become a cardiovascular pediatrician.

“I know what a school like Notre Dame has in football,” Rouse said. “But I want to see if they have the medicine, too. That’s a part of it. I’m always asking about that.”

The 6-6, 300-pounder continues to raise eyebrows. His length and raw ability indicate a high ceiling.

“He’s one of the best tackle prospects in the country, and as far as ceiling is concerned, maybe the best,” said Tom Lemming, CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst.

Recognizing Rouse’s potential, the Irish catered to his medicinal desires. Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn provided him with a contact in Ratigan.

Ratigan was a four-year letterwinner at linebacker for Notre Dame from 1989-92. Following a three-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts, Ratigan went into medicine. Rouse desires the same path.

“Notre Dame was the only school I’ve been to that could have someone who has done that and would be in the position I’d be in,” Rouse said.

Rouse’s aunt had Down syndrome and died in the spring of 2017. Before Rouse was born, his grandfather died of a heart attack. Both fueled Rouse’s interest in medicine.

His inclination gained more steam as he watched “Grey’s Anatomy.” Since seventh grade, Rouse has attended summer medical camps that ranged from 4-to-8 weeks.

Rouse’s recruiting spike and 10 visits kept him away this summer. But enough time spent with children at summer camps hooked him on pediatrics.

“I always felt like I had a special connection with them,” Rouse said. “Whenever I see kids, I just love to hang out and play with them. I was like a jungle gym to them, with two kids on each arm.”

With medicine equal to football in terms of importance, Rouse echoes his priorities during visits. Along with his mother, Rouse hounds coaches about their school’s medicinal programs and facilities.

None provided answers with as much confidence and assurance as Quinn, Rouse said.

“He just comes prepared. He doesn’t need to ask anybody” Rouse said. “He has all the answers right there. He’s not stuttering or anything. He’s giving clear, concise answers. My mom works in HR, so she knows all about people giving interviews, tells and things like that.”

During his first face-to-face encounter with Ratigan, Rouse heard advice few could offer.

“If you go to the NFL, after you retire, take a year to study and get all your knowledge back,” Ratigan said in Rouse’s recollection.

Wednesday night, Rouse narrowed his top two choices to Notre Dame and Stanford. He intends on unofficially visiting Stanford’s date with USC this Saturday.

Rouse will then announce his pledge in the next couple weeks, and neither is in the lead, he told ND Insider.

“Right after I got off that visit with Notre Dame, I came home and was like, ‘Man, that was an amazing visit. I have my priorities straight, and I know what I want to do. This is where I want to take my recruitment right now,’” Rouse said.

Rouse’s first Notre Dame game, official visit with the Irish and tubing experience at head coach Brian Kelly’s lakehouse were among his highlights. But nothing compared to Rouse’s chat with Ratigan.

He credits Quinn for playing matchmaker.

“(Quinn) is a really great, down-to-earth guy. I could really see myself — if I’m at Notre Dame — if I need to maybe talk to him outside of football, I could do that,” Rouse said. “He’s really laid back. He’s a very family-oriented guy, which is very important to me.”

2019 target Walter Rouse rates as a three-star offensive tackle on Rivals and 247Sports.

The following recruits are expected to attend Saturday's game against Ball State. 

2019 commits

LB Jack Kiser

2020 prospects

OL Gus Hartwig

OL Luke Kandra

DT Shawn Lee

LB Ian Stewart

RB Leshon Williams 

OL Zak Zinter

2021 prospects

WR Deion Colzie

QB Ron Powlus