For most of the athletes that attend Michigan's annual summer technique school, the goal is simple; obtain the skills necessary to become a better player. For some, though, the objective is much greater. A small number of campers have realistic shots at earning Michigan scholarships. Of those, only a few actually realize the dream. Wednesday, Madison Heights Lampheer wideout James Rogers became one of those players.
Rogers was a relative unknown entering the camp despite having turned in a strong junior campaign. The 6-2, 175-pounder rushed for over 1,100 yards on 9.8 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns on the ground…and hauled in 24 receptions for 400 yards through the air. While most of his success clearly came as a running back on the high school ranks, Rogers knew he would have to make a move if he was going to make the kind of camp impression he had envisioned.
"High school is a little bit different because (running the ball) doesn't really take all that much," he said. "The best players are usually in the backfield if you don't have a good quarterback. Actually, I had a pretty good quarterback…but it was a lot easier to just hand me the ball and just let me do what I do. I knew once I got to a bigger level, with my size and my weight I was going to have to play wide receiver. I've got good hands. I knew that wide receiver would probably be the best position for me."
Rogers' name hadn't been mentioned among the top prospects in the state heading into the camp, but he quickly proved that to be a mistake. His 10.69 100 meter track speed was immediately evident as he ran past defenders all day long. His on-field exploits quickly caught the attention of Michigan wide receivers coach Erik Campbell.
"During seven-on-seven was when I noticed them really watching me," Rogers said. "That's when Coach Campbell approached me. The first day (Tuesday) I was just coming out to perform… to see what I could do and see what colleges I could get interested in me. Then he talked to me a lot and asked me to come out for a second day. When he asked me to come out for a second day I was pretty impressed. At lunch time he asked me to come eat lunch with him. As soon as we were done eating he called me out to the area where all the other players were and he told me he wanted me to go talk to Coach Carr."
With more and more eyes watching him on day two, Rogers didn't disappoint. He excelled in one-on-one drills and again flashed a speed element that few DB's could match. He later proved that none of the receivers in attendance could keep up either when won the Smokehouse award for the fastest player in his position group - plus he was the fastest overall. The only adversaries that gave him a run for his money were the bullets flying off of the arm of Ryan Mallett.
"He has a beautiful arm," Rogers said. "He ripped my gloves! He ripped my gloves right in the thumb part. They were brand new. I didn't get any passes from him the first day. I didn't get any passes from him until today. In two passes he ripped them."
Rogers was clearly amazed at the elite signal caller's skill set, but found himself even more impressed with the future Wolverine's personality.
"When I first saw him I thought he was going to be one of those uptight stuck up kids, but he was real cool," said Rogers. "He was down to earth and easy to speak to. He seems like a person I could get along with real good."
Mallett's presence only made Rogers more certain of what he would do if he received an offer. When one finally came, it didn't take long for him to come to a decision.
"It probably took less than a second," he said. "It was always my dream to be a Wolverine. My dad already knew what I was going to do. We already knew that if they offered I was taking it. I've always been a Michigan fan. When I was younger I played for a little league team called the Wolverines. It was always a dream of mine to be a Michigan Wolverine."
With his college choice now out of the way, the young speedster's shift his focus to his high school team and bettering last season's effort.
"It went real good last year," Rogers said regarding his junior season.
"We went 6-3. Coming in we knew we were going to have a good team, but
we started struggling at the beginning. In the end we picked it up, we lost
in the first round to Highland Park. We start seven on seven tomorrow. I've
got to get in there and get my team prepared."