DETROIT – Former Michigan State and Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers has died at the age of 38.
Rogers set records at Michigan State before being selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft.
Local 4 spoke with teammates who played with Rogers at Michigan State and in high school. They said they’re in shock.
Mark Goebel was a linebacker at Brother Rice High School in 1999. He said he remembers the state championship against Saginaw because of the opponent’s star receiver.
“They won 14-7, and Charles caught one pass for a 70-yard touchdown, and that’s all they needed," Goebel said.
The high school foes turned into college teammates at Michigan State.
“Same class, same floor as freshmen,” Goebel said. “We were pretty close back then.”
On Monday, the news of Rogers’ death hit Goebel hard. He said his phone tarted going off early in the morning from other former teammates.
“I don’t think people realize he was the kindest, gentlest guy,” Goebel said. “Always laughing.”
Jeremiah McLaurin was Rodgers’ childhood best friend from Saginaw and a former football teammate.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” McLaurin said.
McLaurin said Rogers never cared much for accolades, though there were many, including being named the nation’s best wide receiver in college and going No. 2 overall in the NFL draft. He said Rogers didn’t focus on his missteps -- such as drug problems and legal issues -- either.
McLaurin said Rogers was living in Florida, trying to provide for his children. He said Rogers never forgot where he came from.
“He gave a lot back to the community,” McLaurin said. “The community is showing love to him on this sad day we have here.”
McLaurin said the cause of death for Rogers isn’t clear. He said funeral plans are in the works. It will be held in Rogers’ hometown of Saginaw.
The Detroit Lions released the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Rogers. From Saginaw, to East Lansing, to Detroit, Charles’ connection to the state of Michigan and its football community was felt by many during the course of his life. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”
Michigan State University released the following:
Former Michigan State All-American wide receiver Charles Rogers has passed away. He was 38.
Rogers, who won the 2002 Biletnikoff Award, is MSU’s all-time leader in touchdown catches with 27 and ranks third in school history in receiving yards (2,821) and eighth in catches (135), totals he accumulated in just two seasons (2001-02) with the Spartans.
Rogers caught a then school-record 68 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior in 2002 and was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2003 National Football League Draft. He owns the top-two MSU single-season marks for receiving yards (1,470 in 2001 and 1,351 in 2002) and TD catches (14 in 2001 and 13 in 2002). His 20.90 yards per catch during his career ranks second in the school record book, trailing only College Football Hall of Famer Kirk Gibson (20.96). Rogers was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2002 and was also named the winner of the Governor’s Award (team MVP).
“The Spartan football family is deeply saddened to learn the news of Charles Rogers passing away,” said Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio. “He was an incredible talent who set numerous records at Michigan State and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wide receiver in 2002. I was here as an assistant coach during Charles’ first year on campus in 2000, and as a defense, we had to go against him in practice every day. He stopped by the football building a few years ago and was really excited and honored to see his All-America plaque and Biletnikoff Award on display in the lobby.
“We send our condolences to his family, friends and former teammates during this difficult time.”
“Charles Rogers was a gifted young man,” said Spartan wide receivers coach Don Treadwell, who was also Rogers’ position coach at MSU. “He had the total package as a premier wide receiver with size, speed and range, topped with an awesome competitive spirit, yet he was humble off the field. It was a privilege to have coached him. He’s a great Spartan warrior who will be deeply missed.”
In 2002, Rogers became only the second receiver to MSU history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, joining Plaxico Burress, who accomplished the feat in 1998-99. Rogers led the Big Ten in receiving yards (112.6 per game) and TD receptions (13), while ranking third in receptions (5.67 per game). He also ranked among the NCAA leaders in TD catches (third with 13), receiving yards (eighth with 1,351) and receptions (tied for 27th with 68). Fifty-seven of his 68 receptions (84 percent) resulted in first downs.
With his 21-yard TD reception in the second quarter vs. Northwestern (Sept. 28), Rogers set both then NCAA and Big Ten records by catching a TD pass in his 13th consecutive regular-season game and his 14th straight game overall. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound junior from Saginaw, Michigan, had six 100-yard receiving games in 2002, tying the single-season mark he set as a sophomore. He had a season-best 175 yards vs. Notre Dame (seven catches).
Rogers produced a school-record 12 career 100-yard receiving games, including a Spartan single-game record 270 yards vs. Fresno State (10 receptions) in the 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic. Rogers accounted for 3,108 career all-purpose yards and his 29 career touchdowns rank 11th on MSU’s career chart. He is the only Spartan receiver to record multiple 200-yard receiving games (school-record 270 vs. Fresno State in 2001 and 206 vs. Wisconsin in 2001).
Following his All-America career at Michigan State, Rogers became only the fourth Spartan player to be picked second overall in the history of the NFL Draft, joining quarterback Earl Morrall (1956, San Francisco 49ers), running back Clinton Jones (1967, Minnesota Vikings) and offensive tackle Tony Mandarich (1989, Green Bay Packers). Charles “Bubba” Smith is the only Michigan State player ever to be selected No. 1 overall (1967, Baltimore Colts) in the NFL Draft. Rogers spent three seasons (2003-05) in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.