Sports

Heart of a Lion

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Injuries are a part of playing football. That’s just something that comes with the territory.

But the injury bug has been biting Victor Rogers a little bit harder than most. It’s getting to a point of plain old bad luck.

Rogers, who graduated from Decatur High School in 1997, is still waiting to play in his first regular season NFL game after being drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in 2002. After a storied career at the University of Colorado, the 6-foot-6, 313-pound offensive tackle has been in a constant battle with injuries during his first two seasons with the Lions.

“Injuries have been a part of my career,” Rogers said. “I just have to fight through them when adversity comes your way. It’s just an occupational hazard. You can’t let them break you.”

Rogers has had plenty of opportunities to let that happen.

After playing well enough during the 2002 preseason to earn a spot on the Lions’ roster as a rookie, Rogers suffered a season-ending high-ankle sprain during a preseason game against Pittsburgh.

After rehabbing the ankle, Rogers came into the 2003 season ready to make some noise. But, like his rookie year, his season was cut short because of injury. Rogers was inactive for Detroit’s first seven games of the year before being placed on the injured list with a lower back problem, which eventually required one of the many surgeries of his football career.

“The back issue had been there for a while,” Rogers said. “It was there in high school, but the more you play, the more it comes to life. It got to a point where I couldn’t get in my stance.”

The injury bug hasn’t been limited just to his NFL career, however.

While at Colorado he was the recipient of the team’s Hang Tough Award, presented by the coaching staff to the player that overcame the most adversity during his college career.

Rogers had seven surgeries during a 15-month span during his freshman and sophomore years, including a dislocated knee cap while playing against the University of Washington in Seattle in 1997.

Fast forward to now and Rogers might be entering a make-or-break season with the Lions. Detroit starts up its training camp next Saturday in Allen Park, Mich. and Rogers will again be in a dog-fight for a roster spot.

“I feel fine,” Rogers said. “Obviously it is the NFL and there is going to be some good competition in camp. Unless you are a first-rounder or something, you are going to be fighting for a job every year. The competition is going to be there. You just need to suck it up because you may end up not having a job.”

Rogers is currently living and training in Denver at Velocity Sports Performance center with NFL players like Seattle Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte.

“Our workouts are pretty low key right now,” Rogers said. “I usually work out for two and a half hours and then play a little basketball. I’m definitely ready for training camp. It is so long that you can’t get too amped, too early or you will be dead and dragging in the second week.”

Rogers tries to get back to Federal Way as often as his schedule allows. His mom, Cynthia Goins, and step-father still live here and he has a 13-year-old sister who attends Saghalie Middle School and a 6-year-old sister who goes to Brigadoon Elementary.

Rogers was in town late last month when he worked as an instructor at World Vision’s Football Camp at Decatur for under-privileged kids.

“I try to stay low profile when I come home,” Roger said.

But being low profile when you are 6-6, 300-plus and the most highly-decorated football player to ever come out of Federal Way isn’t real easy.

As a senior at Decatur in 1996, Rogers was a unanimous All-American selection as an offensive lineman, earning first-team honors from Parade Magazine, Prep Football Report, PrepStar, Schutt Sports, Student Sports, SuperPrep and USA Today. He was classified by most scouts as the No. 1 offensive line prospect in the nation. And all those honors came on Decatur teams that won a grand total of eight games during his three-year career.

“Decatur was a basketball school when I went there,” Rogers said. “Now it sounds like its become a football school.”

But Rogers disappointed a lot of hometown fans when he chose to play for coach Rick Neuheisel at the University of Colorado. While there, Rogers developed into one of the premier offensive tackles in the nation, allowing only 4.5 quarterback sacks in 2,215 plays during his Buffaloe career. As a senior in 2001, Rogers was named second-team All-American by CNN/Sports Illustrated and third team by the Associated Press.

After graduating from Colorado with a degree in broadcast journalism, everything seemed set for Rogers to be a high draft pick into the NFL. There were some mock drafts that predicted him to be as high as a first-rounder, but durability issues dropped Rogers to Detroit in the seventh and final round (259th overall).

“Making the team is always the goal,” he said. “Hopefully it works out for me.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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