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Monday, April 7, 2003
Updated: April 8, 2:21 PM ET
 
Rogers has tools to make immediate impact
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Halfway through a late-night interview at the NFL combine two months ago, a session with a team that owns a top 10 choice in the draft, but a meeting during which Charles Rogers' demeanor alternated between courteous and curt, the Michigan State wide receiver rolled up the sleeves of his T-shirt as he fidgeted incessantly, and the move revealed his beefy biceps.

More important to the college scouting director conducting the interview, the stretch-and-yawn Rogers performed at that point also revealed a hidden facet of his personality, a more human side than previously exhibited.

What the scouting director noticed when Rogers squirmed in the chair was a tattoo on each arm, the name "Charnae" on his right bicep and "Charvze" on the left, stenciled flawlessly in stilted letters, deep into the dark skin of the standout wide receiver.

Charles Rogers
Rogers scored 25 touchdowns in two years at Michigan State.
Queried about the tattoos, Rogers noted they were the names of his daughter and son, respectively, and that acknowledgement redirected the conversation in a dramatically different way.

A way that earned him even more respect from the top 10 team and which figures to earn him an eight-figure signing bonus in the next few months.

"What he showed in talking about his two kids," said the scouting director, "was the passion and emotion we hadn't seen from him before the subject of his family came up. He was almost an automation through the meeting with us. And sometimes, when you watch him on tape, he looks like that on the field, too. He's so good, so blessed physically, it's almost as if he feels he can just go through the motions sometimes. Hell, if I'm going to lay out the kind of money he's going to get, I want to see some fire in his eyes."

A relatively laconic player, one whose brilliance and flair on the field seems at odds with his occasional brusqueness off it, Rogers, indeed, opens up a bit more when his children, fathered when he was still a prep star at Saginaw (Mich.) High School replace him as the center of inquisitors' attention. He is, for the most part, loathe to talk about himself, his reasons for departing Michigan State with two years of eligibility remaining, of his aspirations at the next level.

It might, in fact, be easier for a cornerback to check Rogers on a 9-pattern than to engage him in a dialogue beyond the scope of the characteristic trash talk that has become inherent to playing the two positions.

There have been times during games when Rogers, the consensus top player in the draft at his position and likely to be the second prospect taken overall on April 26, has run his mouth. Mostly, though, he just runs, period. Usually it is right past an outclassed defender on the way to the end zone.

That's the way, Rogers allowed during a media session at the combine, that he prefers to do his talking. With his hands and his feet, his deeds and not a dialogue, putting up more scores than syllables.

Of course, his numbers speak volumes about his ability, and he has rated as a top five choice from the second he elected to bypass his remaining college eligibility and petition for the 2003 draft.

"People always seem to want you to explain how you got open on a play, what you did (to beat the cornerback), how the whole thing developed," said Rogers during some free time at the combine. "To tell the truth, sometimes I don't even know, OK? It just happens."

Physical prowess of the ilk possessed by Rogers often happens that way. It is, more often than not, a serendipitous confluence of skills, some of them learned, others imbued, many simply a function of heredity. In Rogers, the scouts see a player who is a rare amalgam of the prototype components that most teams desire in a wide receiver.

And if his "measurables" at the combine were considerably less than advertised -- he checked in at 6-feet-2 3/8 and 202 pounds, nearly two inches shorter than he was listed in the Michigan State media guide, and about 20 pounds lighter -- the disappointment didn't last very long.

Even though the Spartans sports information office won't win any truth-in-advertising commendations, Rogers remains close to the model of what the new age wide receiver is supposed to be, a good fit at a position where size matters far more than it did 10-15 years ago.

The top half-dozen wide receiver prospects in the 2003 draft, gleaned from interviews with several veteran talent evaluators, average 6-feet-1 5/8 and 213.2 pounds. That is in line with the trend over the past five years, at least in terms of first-round choices at the position, as teams continue to seek out wide receivers capable of physically matching up with bigger cornerbacks.

When wide receivers like Kelley Washington of Tennessee and Miami's Andre Johnson strolled through the corridors of the Indiana Convention Center, which hosts the combine, they immediately passed the so-called "eyeball test." In a league where bigger is better, and really big is best, the scouts concur that the colleges are certainly turning out receivers of great dimension anymore.

Of course, players have to possess skills to go with their size and, while the 2003 prospects fit the mold, Rogers and Johnson are the only consensus blue-chippers in the talent pool.

"After those two, it falls off, which isn't to say you won't have another wide receiver or two in the first round," said Washington personnel chief Vinny Cerrato, whose team scrutinized the position closely, before acquiring Jets veteran Laveranues Coles as a restricted free agent. "Who comes of the board after Rogers and Johnson depends on a team's style, what kind of offense it runs, how the (wide receiver) fits what they do. It's a position at which there is probably more depth than there is first-round quality."

He has great field awareness. Watch him on tape and you never see him guessing about where his feet are. He's very aware of what's going on around him and, most of all, he knows exactly where the end zone is at.
An NFC regional scout, on Rogers

There is actually a group of teams that rates Johnson superior to Rogers in terms of potential upside, but watching the Miami product on tape and viewing a snippet of celluloid from his campus workout, it seems he is not nearly as natural a receiver as is the Michigan State star.

Washington is an intriguing player, with jaw-dropping size and incredible athleticism, but he has played just two seasons, and 19 games, and fusion surgery to repair a neck/back injury could make him a dicey choice.

All of which leaves Rogers, a prospect occasionally (but injudiciously) compared to Minnesota Vikings star Randy Moss, at the top of the heap. On the PlayStation2 video game, Rogers rated a 96 score on a scale of 100. In the eyes of league scouts, he isn't quite that close to perfect, but is viewed as an immediate impact player, even at a position where first-rounders are traditional underachievers as rookies.

Given that he played only two years, after sitting out a year as a Proposition 48 player in 2000, Rogers may have only scratched the surface. The former Biletnikoff Award winner averaged a lofty 20.4 yards per catch and scored 25 times in his two seasons. His back-of-the-end zone catch against Notre Dame was an instant classic.

"He has great field awareness," said one NFC regional scout. "Watch him on tape and you never see him guessing about where his feet are. He's very aware of what's going on around him and, most of all, he knows exactly where the end zone is at."

Indeed, at one point in his college career, Rogers scored a touchdown in a Big 10-record 13 consecutive outings. It was that kind of production, along with the potential for an injury that might blunt his earnings and his desire to provide for his family, that pulled him to the NFL. There were, Rogers grudgingly allowed, no more worlds left to conquer in East Lansing, Mich.

Draw him into even a brief discussion of how he plans to compete at the NFL level, of how he figures to stack up against the best cornerbacks, and there are traces of the same passion he exhibited when discussing his kids during that late-night interview. It's clear he plans to tattoo the opposition.

"People are counting on me to be good," Rogers said. "And I'm counting on me to be good. I'm not doing this to just do it half-way."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.