Football player. Rogers was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 8, 1958, to George Washington Rogers and Grady Ann Rogers. He struggled through childhood in poverty. His father spent much of his son’s youth serving a prison term, and his mother labored to raise five children. Raised largely by his aunt in Duluth, Georgia, Rogers became a prominent high school football player under the coach Cecil Morris. Encouraged and driven by Morris, Rogers overcame early academic deficiencies to qualify for a college grant-in-aid.
Rogers became the prize catch of University of South Carolina (USC) coach Jim Carlen in 1977 and had the best rushing day of his career, 237 yards and two touchdowns against Wake Forest, on November 18, 1978. He would finish with twenty-seven 100-yard-plus games out of the forty-six in which he participated, closing his college career with twenty-two straight. The 1979 and 1980 seasons would be the brightest of Rogers’s career. In 1979 he rushed for a then USC record 1,681 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry as the Gamecocks finished with an 8–4 record. He earned all-America honors from the Associated Press. The following year Rogers broke his own school single-season rushing record with 1,894 yards on 324 carries for a 5.8 average per carry. His yardage led the Division I runners nationally and earned him the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious of college football’s individual honors. As of the early twenty-first century he remained the only winner from a South Carolina school. Rogers closed his college career with a school record 5,204 career yards and a staggering 954 carries.
The New Orleans Saints made Rogers the top selection in the 1980 professional draft, and he did not disappoint, rushing for 1,674 yards on 378 carries and scoring thirteen touchdowns to lead the National Football League in rushing and clinch Rookie of the Year honors. He played four seasons for the Saints before going to the Washington Redskins for three seasons. His best year in Washington produced 1,203 yards on 303 carries and eighteen touchdowns in 1986. He earned a Super Bowl ring with Washington in 1987, his last season as a player.
Rogers admitted to alcohol and drug abuse while playing in New Orleans, and a cocaine arrest in Columbia in 1990 cost him his first job with USC. He did twenty-eight days of rehab, reversed his lifestyle, and returned to work with USC. Rogers channeled much of his effort through the George Rogers Foundation, which provides scholarship aid to students who have overcome obstacles to achieve. An annual golf tournament of celebrities, former teammates, and other athletes helps fund the project. Rogers is a member of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame (1981), the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame (1987), and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame (1997).
Gillespie, Bob. “Rogers and the Heisman, 20 Years After.” Columbia State, May 9, 2000, pp. C1, C2.