We have a fascination with NFL draft busts. Ryan Leaf, in his own way, is a part of NFL lore just like Peyton Manning.
Not every failed draft pick ends up with a sad post-football story, but Charles Rogers’ tale is a rough one.
The Lansing State Journal did an excellent feature on Rogers, the Michigan State receiver who was the second pick of the 2003 draft by the Detroit Lions. Of all the missteps in the infamous Matt Millen era, the Rogers pick might have turned out the worst.
When the Lansing State Journal caught up with Rogers, he was 30 pounds less than his playing weight of 205 pounds, living in Fort Myers, Florida, as a general manager at an auto repair shop (although his actual job duties seem vague), upset that his friends who were with him when he had a huge NFL contract aren’t there for him anymore.
There’s usually a reason a draft pick flames out, and Rogers checks plenty of boxes. Being near his hometown of Saginaw didn’t help. Losing his grandfather, who was his role model, when he was in college was a huge blow. But Rogers believes injuries and an addiction to painkillers were the main problems.
Rogers broke his collarbone twice early in his career, including a few plays into the 2004 season. After the second collarbone injury he said he got hooked on Vicodin.
“(The Lions) were giving them out like candy,” Rogers told the Lansing State Journal. “Whatever you want, man. Whatever you want. (They) weren’t even questioning as long as you are on the field. They were passing them out like Skittles. I was straight hooked on them things for three or four years.”
The Lions didn’t respond to the State Journal’s request for comment.
The next year, Rogers was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, but he says his marijuana use was never a problem. Rogers said he smoked marijuana every day at Michigan State and during his NFL career, and still uses it daily.
“Everybody knew I smoked,” Rogers told the Lansing State Journal. “It wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t even hinder my play. I get to Detroit, it’s a whole different story. I understand it. You can say it’s a maturity thing, but I was just playing ball. That’s probably where I went wrong at. It’s a guidance thing, man.”
The Lansing State Journal said Rogers still owes the Lions $6.1 million from his signing bonus. The Lions filed a grievance to recoup more than $10 million of his $14.4 million signing bonus, and the State Journal said the NFLPA negotiated the lower price. Either way, Rogers says, “I ain’t got nothing to pay them.”
Rogers played in just 15 NFL games over three seasons, with just 440 yards. The Lansing State Journal story outlines how he blew a lot of his money, had eight children out of wedlock, got in trouble with the law but said he kicked his addiction to pain pills years ago.
As the NFL draft kicks off next Thursday, it will be a highlight in the lives of every player who is selected. Not all those stories will have happy endings, something Rogers can attest to.
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