The Monday NFL news cycle began with sad news: Charles Rogers, the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft, died overnight. He was just 38.
Citing his high school coach, the Detroit Free Press said Rogers’ death was tied to a recent hospital stay.
While most NFL fans remember Rogers as a bust, the man who drafted him, Matt Millen, said he’ll remember Rogers the man, who had a kind heart.
‘Charles had a good heart’
Speaking to Free Press reporter Dave Birkett, Millen remembered a story from early in Rogers’ brief career.
“He bought this brand new car, it was like a truck,” Millen said. “And he just went to dinner downtown and when he came back to get it, he parked it with the attendant, and went downtown, went in, had a meal, went back out, the car is gone. And they can’t find it.
“The [valet] comes down, comes out, parks the car, breaks down and, ‘Charles, man, it was such a nice ride I just had to take it. I took it for a spin in the neighborhood, and somebody’ — I can’t remember if somebody threw a brick at it or somebody damaged it. And he came back and the guy was going to fire him on the spot and Charles says, ‘No, [don’t do it].’ Charles said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll take care of all that. But the kid doesn’t lose his job. I understand.’
“So that was Charles. Charles just had a good heart, he had a good understanding. He got it, and he didn’t want to take away a job from some guy who’s probably struggling and just wanted to ride a car. That was Charles. That’s how I always remember him.”
One of the most talented receivers to ever come out of Michigan, Rogers only played 15 games over three seasons, recording 36 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns. He broke his collarbone in practice midway through his rookie year, and nothing was the same.
He broke his collarbone a second time in the 2004 season opener and in 2005 he was suspended four games for violating the league policy on substances of abuse.
“I think maybe his biggest fault was he just had a weak disposition,” Millen said. “But as far as the kind of guy he was, you always rooted for him. He was extremely talented. He just — I mean, it could only happen to us. You draft him, he breaks his collarbone, he comes out the very first series of the following season, he breaks it again.”
The Lions released Rogers before the start of the 2006 season.
He battled substance-abuse issues after his playing days ended, and in 2017 the Lansing State Journal wrote that Rogers was working at an auto repair shop in Fort Meyers, Florida.
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