When Charles Rogers flamed out of the NFL after going to the Lions with the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, he became a symbol of the failures of former Lions President Matt Millen. But after Rogers died overnight, Millen said he has fond memories of Rogers as a man.
Millen told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that when he thinks of Rogers, he thinks of the time Rogers bought himself a new truck with his rookie signing bonus — and then saved the job of a valet who took the truck without permission and brought it back damaged.
“He bought this brand new car, it was like a truck,” Millen said. “And he just went to dinner downtown and when he came back to get it, he parked it with the attendant, and went downtown, went in, had a meal, went back out, the car is gone. And they can’t find it. The [valet] comes down, comes out, parks the car, breaks down and, ‘Charles, man, it was such a nice ride I just had to take it. I took it for a spin in the neighborhood, and somebody’ — I can’t remember if somebody threw a brick at it or somebody damaged it. And he came back and the guy was going to fire him on the spot and Charles says, ‘No, [don’t do it].’ Charles said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll take care of all that. But the kid doesn’t lose his job. I understand.’ So that was Charles. Charles just had a good heart, he had a good understanding. He got it, and he didn’t want to take away a job from some guy who’s probably struggling and just wanted to ride a car. That was Charles. That’s how I always remember him.”
Rogers failed in the NFL in part because of drug addiction, but Millen said he went to bat for Rogers with the league office, arguing that Rogers needed football in his life and would only do worse if he were suspended.
“That was the worst thing that could have happened to him,” Millen said. “I told the league, like, ‘Look, I can’t let him alone.’ Cause at that point we knew. . . . He deserved better than that.”
Rogers had drug problems, legal problems and financial problems in retirement. He died at the age of 38.