Howe: Rogers Will Be OK

Howe: Rogers Will Be OK

It would be easy for Brad Rogers to feel sorry for himself after an injury ended the football career for which he worked so hard. That's not how the Ohio native is wired, however. He's looking forward to life after the game.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - After getting word that his football career was over, coaches, teammates and friends consoled Brad Rogers. He quickly tried to stop the outpouring of sympathy.

The Iowa fullback succeeded at college football's highest level because of his selflessness. It made sense that during one of the toughest times in his young life he tried to make others feel better about his situation.

"It was hard for them," Rogers said. "They knew I had another year (of eligibility). After I told people I was done, every time I saw someone they acted sad. I told them not to be sad. It was my decision. I'm at peace with it. I had a great run, one that not a lot of people get the chance to do. I'm looking forward to what's next."

The Iowa football player often is described as blue-collar underdog. It can be an overused generality. It's often accurate. It fits Rogers perfectly.

The soft-spoken Ohio native fearlessly launched himself into linebackers so tailbacks could receive headlines. Ironically, after all those collisions, he injured a nerve in his back lifting weights, requiring surgery that ultimately led him to call it quits.

"I played during the whole (2012) season with it," Rogers said. "At times it was worse than others. That's why you would see me one week and not see me the next week. After a while, I just couldn't take the pain. It just got to the point where I couldn't walk. It was unbearable."

Scientists have found that back pain is hereditary. That made a lot of sense to Rogers, whose father, Bryant Rogers, has had multiple surgeries in that area.

"He had his first at 21," Brad said. "I beat him by a year."

Rogers was clear medically to play this coming fall. The Hawkeyes could use him as their only known quantity at fullback outside of Mark Weisman, who excelled at tailback last season.

The risk of re-injuring his back makes it a wiser decision for Rogers to walk (literally) away. His history of a career-threatening heart condition makes it an easier choice.

The irregularities in his ticker cropped up before the 2010 Outback Bowl. For months, Rogers underwent a battery of tests. Doctors remained stumped.

"It was hard because they had things that they thought it was but they didn't have a solid name for it," the Ohio native said. "The whole time I was sitting out was them trying to figure out what it was. A lot of that time was me trying to come back and them trying to see if I could come back."

Rogers missed spring ball in '11 before being cleared to resume riding a bike and running on a treadmill that summer. His conditioning continued improving throughout the next few months. He returned to game action in early October against Penn State.

Tailback Marcus Coker finished second among Big Ten rushers (1,384 yards, 15 touchdowns) that season with Rogers paving the way.

"He would always tell me they were my touchdowns," Rogers said. "He said I did the hard work. I also felt like I was more accepted by the linemen because they knew what I was going through."

Rogers carried the ball 16 times (87 yards) and caught four passes (21 yards) in 27 games at Iowa. He did not score a touchdown. It never was about personal glory for him.

Scout.com ranked Rogers as a two-star prospect coming out of Toledo Central Catholic. He was Iowa's first verbal commitment in the 2009 recruiting class, pledging in April of the previous year.

Some analysts and coaches wondered where Rogers fit in college football. Was he big enough to play fullback? Was he fast enough to play tailback? The Hawkeyes just felt he belonged somewhere and knew he'd be willing to line up at the position that most benefitted his squad.

"It goes back to third grade," Rogers said of his team-first mentality. "I played every position other than quarterback, wherever the team needed help. I even played corner. Wherever they put me, I'd try my hardest."

Injuries to Iowa's running backs in '09 led the coaches to consider employing Rogers at tailback during his true freshman year. The lightly-recruited prospect with no other scholarship offers almost saw action at Michigan State on Oct. 24 for the then-unbeaten Hawkeyes. In the end, his redshirt was preserved that season.

Iowa was stacked at tailback heading into '10. Senior Brett Morse represented the only known commodity at fullback. Rogers moved behind him and saw significant playing time as Morris was slowed with an injury.

Fullback proved to be the right spot for Rogers. It suited his personality.

"It was just fun to know that if someone scored it was somewhat because of me," Roger said.

Rogers admits that getting up a head of steam and crashing into linebackers isn't for everyone.

"You've got to be somewhat crazy," he said. "You have to have a head of steel, too. I think it's more mental than physical. You have to have your mind right every day because there are going to be collisions.

"A non-contact practice is like a vacation for us. We have a party because we know we don't have to crack skulls that day."

Rogers' retirement leaves a hole at fullback for Iowa. Walk-on sophomore Adam Cox could fill the void.

" I really like Adam Cox," Roger said. "He's a good guy with a good mind. I also think they're looking at some position changes."

Rogers could get a chance to tutor his successor. He'll stay around the program this fall as a student coaching assistant as he works towards completing his business degree in December.

Coaching is the next arena into which Rogers wants to throw himself. He'll also is interning at a few bushiness this summer to explore that option.

"I would like to coach but if the business part takes the first jump, I'll go with that," he said.

Right up until his final decision to call it a career was made, Rogers thought of others. He worried that he was letting down his teammates. He felt uneasy breaking the news to Coach Kirk Ferentz.

"He told me that nobody here is going to judge me," Rogers said. "He said that everybody on the team had the utmost respect for me. There was no way he was going to criticize me for this. I could tell he was upset for me but he tried not to let it show."

Ferentz put things into perspective for Rogers. The coach went through a difficult time when his son, Brian, now the team's offensive line coach, faced an uncertain future with a staph infection in his knee during his first season playing center at Iowa.

"He said he got to coach him for four or five games before that," Rogers said. "He said he would have felt lucky to have gotten that time had Brian never played again"

Brad's parents, Alicia and Bryant Rogers, echoed the coach's words of wisdom.

"They were there for me every day to comfort me and let me know that it's OK," Brad said. "They told me that they were proud of me. They said they felt lucky to have a son that played three years of major-college football. They kept my head level."

Alicia and Bryant Rogers deserve a lot of credit for parenting a son who cares so much for others.

"I think I'd be more of a soft-spoken coach," Brad said. "I might yell sometimes, but I'd be more laid-back and let you figure it out after I teach you. If you do it right, we'll get the job done together."

Don't feel sad for Brad Rogers. He possesses the life skills to take him a long way in this world.

"He was a heck of a football player but he's an even better person," Morse said.

"He's just a great guy to be around on and off the field. I definitely miss the big guy."

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