For someone who grew up with microphones and tape recorders constantly being shoved in his face, those kind of chances at the spotlight — however small — are few and far between for former Lion Charles Rogers these days.
So every opportunity he gets, it seems, he's pitching a comeback. This time, it's different, he says. This time, I'll make it, if I just get the chance.
Last weekend, while helping out at friend and former high school teammate LaMarr Woodley's youth football camp in their hometown of Saginaw, Rogers reiterated his most constant theme: I want another shot at the NFL.
"I'm still young," the 28-year-old Rogers told Hugh Bernreuter, the longtime Saginaw News reporter who has covered Rogers ever since he WAS young.
"I know my next shot might be my last shot. I know I have to work harder than I ever worked before. I'm willing to do that," Rogers said.
And I don't buy it.
I, too, covered Rogers some when he was a terror in the Saginaw Valley League in both track and football. And while I'll admit I haven't spoken in person to Rogers in a decade, I have watched his meteoric rise to the top, and his equally precipitous fall from grace, always keeping those few past encounters stored in the back of my mind.
Until something drastic changes, he'll still be the cautionary tale for two things: 1) how teams should look at a prospect's character as much as their measurable attributes of height, weight and speed; and 2) that extraordinarily gifted kids don't necessarily know how to work through adversity once they finally meet it.
Rogers was gifted, and knew it, too. His Saginaw High quarterback would lob a pass that looked like a punt nearly straight up in the air, and somehow Rogers would end up head and shoulders above a crowd of defenders to snare it.
The kid who claimed he'd never lost a race from elementary school through high school once told me that the only people who ever challenged him on the track were his teammates — and then only sometimes. Later that spring, I watched the crosstown rival Rogers seemingly would never admit to — Saginaw Heritage's Stuart Schweigert, the current Lions safety — beat him in the state finals of the 100 dash. The look on Rogers' face was one of pure shock, as if he truly believed that no was supposed to ever beat him.
Granted, immature behavior from a high school kid isn't so out of character. But it's not like Rogers — whom the Lions picked No. 2 overall in the 2003 draft, only to see his career derailed by a pair of collarbone injuries and running afoul of the NFL's substance abuse policy — has seemed all that mature in the years following his release by the Lions.
There were the paternity issues, substance-abuse issues and the coup de grace, the time he got stabbed in the abdomen with a fork. More recently, there was the probation violation that landed him in the Oakland County jail for a month earlier this year.
"At the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror ... I probably couldn't do that awhile back," Rogers told Bernreuter. "Maybe it's maturity. As I get older, you think differently, talk differently, see things differently."
But it was another quote from Charles Rogers that made me see — and hear — the same old cocky prep star in my brain.
"I definitely want to see what Charles Rogers is made of," he said, speaking of himself in third person, as diva wide receivers are known to do. "I want to see if Charles Rogers can pull this off."
I want to see if it's not the same old Charles Rogers, too.