Michigan State Football: Goodbye, Charles Rogers

Charles Rogers, Michigan State football (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
Charles Rogers, Michigan State football (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images) /

Michigan State football lost a legend on Monday in Charles Rogers and despite all the off-field issues, he should be remembered for the positives.

When I first heard the news about Charles Rogers’ passing, it didn’t quite hit me. I had no idea he was in the hospital and fighting through health issues but I did know about his past with drug addiction and post-football issues.

It was surprising and I just kind of brushed it off with an “oh, that’s sad” feeling. Nothing too reactionary, just a quick feeling of sadness before moving on with my day.

I’ll admit, that was selfish.

For a player who brought me so much joy as a child and was one of the many reasons why I wanted to play football starting in fourth grade, it should have hit me harder. And I just didn’t realize what it truly meant and what kind of impact he had on everyone he encountered.

As fans, sometimes we can be victims of believing everything we read or making assumptions based off of what we hear in the news. So when Rogers was in trouble with the law and his football career ended early and he had a drug addiction, there were many assumptions that he just wasn’t a nice guy and perceptions of the former All-American wide receiver transitioned into negative ones.

A one-time childhood hero of mine was no longer that, but rather an antagonist. It seemed as if he had done everything to waste the natural talent he had oozing out of his pores.

Rogers was a letdown; a disgrace to Michigan State football.

And that’s where I, and countless others, got it wrong.

After reading countless articles and posts from former teammates and friends, it was clear he was a good guy without an evil bone in his body. He always wanted to be what everyone wanted and that got him into some trouble. He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and he eventually collapsed under pressure.

Rogers was injured during his rookie season with the Lions, got addicted to painkillers and was never the same player, getting released a couple of years later. He tried to get his life back but was trying to overcome many demons that disallowed that. He went down to Florida to work with his childhood friend at his auto shop and had no desire to return home to Saginaw.

Coming back to visit Michigan State was one of the toughest things he ever had to do, but he was glad he did. He didn’t think he would be welcomed back, but he was with open arms. He didn’t think his second family wanted to see him again after all of his issues, but he was wrong.

And he never realized that.

Even going back to Saginaw was out of the question for Charles, according to his friends. He was afraid people would look down on him and worried a lot about the perception of him post-football. He thought of himself as a failure and didn’t want to face the city he “let down” in the process.

But he didn’t let anyone down.

He took a wrong path, made mistakes, but he wanted to get better. He wanted to get back to being that hero that everyone looked at him as when he was still playing. It wasn’t too late to repair his image, but he didn’t know if he had it in him to do that.

Charles was going through a lot more mentally than I think people realize and it’s because of people like me assuming he was just a lost cause that kept him away from his home.

And for that, I wish he knew that we were wrong.

Charles wasn’t a disappointment. He didn’t live up to the football expectations, but life is bigger than that. He was, and still is, a Spartan legend and provided so many great memories for those who grew up watching him put up video game-like numbers. He gave it his all until he couldn’t anymore.

It’s a shame that he didn’t feel like anyone would welcome him home.

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So to the legend who made countless kids fall in love with the sport of football and imagined themselves wearing his jersey, running around the backyard playing catch with their friends, you deserve one last “thank you” and a proper goodbye.

You touched everyone’s lives in a positive way, you just didn’t know it.