"I was working a football camp in at Oklahoma when Charley North (Bama's Director of Football Operations who formerly coached Rogers in college) called," Rogers continued. "He told me they had a job opening off the field, but if I joined the staff I would have a chance to advance later. I drove down to Texas in just my coaching shorts and T-shirt and told Coach Fran that no matter what the position was, I was going to take it. The positive outlook, the work ethic and everything he exemplifies--I wanted to be a part of his organization."
Growing up in the Texas panhandle, Rogers was a better-than-average prep athlete, playing quarterback, tailback, strong safety and linebacker for his father's high school team. "I was always going to either have the football in my hands or be the guy making the call on defense," he said.
A good enough punt return man to be recruited by several Division IA schools, Rogers chose the Coast Guard Academy, hoping to play football while pursuing a military career. But a devastating broken leg landed him in the hospital for weeks, putting the former track star temporarily on crutches and also prompting him to move back home to recuperate.
Rogers quickly entered the University of Oklahoma and spent that fall recovering from his injury while also watching from the stands as the Sooners struggled to a 5-5-1 mark on the field. "By December I was re-evaluating my goals," Rogers said. "I thought I could play college football there with no problem, so I told my buddies and my family that I was going to walk on at Oklahoma. They joked that they would get me a big life insurance policy.
"I told the Oklahoma coaches that all I wanted was an opportunity. They said show up tomorrow at 5:30, and if you're late don't come back. It was rough, only six months since the break. But I went through spring practice and got invited back to fall camp on the 105 list. I played in '96 and '97. My claim to fame was playing on the two worst teams in Oklahoma history. We were 3-8 and 4-8."
But despite the losing records, Rogers gained both a mentor and an enduring work ethic from those tough seasons. "I had an opportunity to play for Chris Thurmond, and he is hands-down the best secondary coach and best motivator I've seen," Rogers said. "I wasn't six foot tall and I wasn't 200 pounds--not even close. But there is nobody that is going to out-hustle me. I played corner and safety my senior year. We had tough seasons, but I learned from going out to the practice field every day after you get beat. You go out there and fight through it to make yourself better. Those failures taught me to strive through that. Keep pushing for success. Keep fighting."
Rogers handled a little bit of everything for the coaches at TCU, and after Franchione worked out the details he joined the Alabama staff last January. He's officially the graduate assistant in charge of preparing recruiting and scouting videos, but his job responsibilities extend throughout the football complex. "I'm kind of Coach North's right-hand man, and I take pride in that," Rogers explained. "I contact recruiting services to get a tape on a guy. I help with on-campus recruiting. I sometimes talk to donors. I publish a scout packet for our seniors and make sure the pro scouts have all the information they need on our guys. I'm in charge of high school video recruiting, and I'm the pro liaison for the NFL. I handle pro day for the scouts, and I've sent out over 1,000 videotapes to high schools since I've been here. Then, when we get them back I'll edit them and condense them down so only the guy we're looking at is on the final product."
Mindful of Franchione's philosophy that ‘no job is too small for anyone,' Rogers is invaluable to the other Tide assistant coaches. But the public better knows his duties assisting fans at football practices. "I handle the practice list for people that call in, putting them on the list and handing out passes," Rogers related. "And I'm in charge of security at practice. Not so much policing, but making sure that the people that are outside the fence come inside and that the people inside are fine.
"There's no new face on the sideline that I don't try to speak to. I introduce myself in a non-invasive way. I'm welcoming rather than saying ‘Who are you? What are you doing?' You don't want to offend anyone. We're in a people business, and we're always in contact. But we want to know who has their hands on our kids. Who is out there at practice, and who is influencing our people?"
Like most of his fellow assistants, Rogers had no direct ties to Alabama before he arrived last winter. But the Tide's storied history and big-time expectations struck a familiar chord. "Coming to Alabama was almost like a homecoming for me, as if I was going back to Oklahoma," Rogers said. "Going back to my alma mater is definitely a career goal of mine, but Alabama is very similar. Campus size, town size, the network and support are similar. No matter where you go in this country, when you say you represent the Alabama Crimson Tide, they immediate think of football, Coach Bryant and Coach Stallings.
"I've still got a 1992 Alabama national championship souvenir that I had growing up as a kid. And I was in West Texas. I treasured that above the Longhorns, A&M, Texas Tech. I loved it. And now I love the fact that I can work at a place that is so well thought of."
As a former student and athlete at Oklahoma, intense fan scrutiny is nothing new to Rogers. But he is definitely impressed by the support that Bama fans give their team. "When I played at Oklahoma, we probably had 18-20,000 people at our spring game, so it wasn't too much of a culture shock to me," Rogers said. "But I think it was saying the fans are going to be here guaranteed--come sleet, snow or sunshine.
"There were days during spring when it was raining cats and dogs. And still when we started practicing there were 300 people out there with umbrellas, standing to watch practice. It was curiosity, but it was telling us that the support is there."
Rogers has clear goals for himself that involve moving from full-time assistant to coordinator and then to head coach. But for now he's enjoying the chance to watch and learn as a member of Franchione's staff. "I don't know if there are any secrets about Coach Franchione," Rogers said. "The thing that Fran does as well as anybody else has ever done is he is honest and up front. He puts things in the proper perspective for everyone. When he talks to his team and staff, there's nothing tricky about it. There are no hidden agendas. The one thing that we are as a staff--we ARE on the same page."