Trojans Profile -- Darreus Rogers|
Sept. 16, 2016
By Andrew McKagan
The contrast between the two pass catchers is glaring in just about every way. The former standout USC wide receiver Mike Williams towers at 6-foot-5, weighs over 220 pounds, and makes his presence known immediately with his loud, boisterous humor. Meanwhile, current USC senior wideout Darreus Rogers stands at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and rarely speaks unless spoken to.
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As players who sport the legendary Trojans No. 1, the pair united on the Howard Jones turf during a hot August afternoon. Each player's attributes are appropriately representative of their respective eras of USC football; Williams' passionate, energetic attitude is to the Pete Carroll-coached teams as Rogers' quiet, hard-working aura is to Clay Helton's.
Rogers, who has seen four different head coaches in his time as a Trojan, began his USC career wearing No. 84.
"I asked Coach (Lane) Kiffin if I could wear the No. 1 jersey, but he wanted to see me work for it first," Rogers recalled from his freshman year. "When Coach (Steve) Sarkisian got here (the next season), he told me I had to earn it. But during camp, going into my sophomore season, he finally saw enough from me to give me his approval."
This hard-working mindset is often cited by athletes across all sports, but for Rogers, he was forced to live it every day growing up in Compton, Calif.
"My mom and dad always say `Life is about who you are as a person, not where you come from,' and that's how I was raised to think," Rogers said. "That's why I'm here right now."
Rogers has two siblings -- an older sister who graduated from Fresno State and a younger brother who plays football at a local community college, a defensive end who Rogers proudly compares to Denver Bronco Von Miller.
Rogers has never been simply handed something in his life, and his early career as a Trojan was no different. He had to earn the right to wear No. 1. Then, he had to unearth himself from the bottom of the depth chart, which meant impressing four different head coaches with his abilities, all while learning a new playbook each time. Now, as a starting senior receiver -- he entered this year with 71 career receptions for 791 yards and seven touchdowns -- it is apparent that Rogers' life philosophy has paid off once again.
Going into this 2016 as an established starter has made a significant difference for Rogers, who appreciates the spot atop the two-deep.
"It just gives me greater confidence and allows me to focus more," he said.
It also allows him to assume more of a mentorship role, where he takes pride in helping the younger players grow. He understands his role as the team's second receiver and complement to Biletnikoff Award candidate JuJu Smith-Schuster. But while the two are close friends, Rogers still isn't afraid to give Smith-Schuster some veteran pointers here and there.
"Sometimes I remind him that this is his team," said Rogers, who through two games leads USC in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (127). "He's obviously already an incredible player, and he has to potential to get even better. I just want to make sure that JuJu and young guys like Deontay (Burnett) and Steven (Mitchell Jr.) get the absolute most out of their abilities."
The senior receiver knows he can get more out of his own production too. He had a career-best season last year with 28 catches for 289 yards and three scores, including a memorable touchdown catch against UCLA, and he feels he can provide his own brand of threat opposite Smith-Schuster.
"I'd like to double my stats this year," he said, which would mean catching about 50 passes for over 500 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. "When other teams double or triple JuJu, I want my team to know I can step up and make a play if we need it."
As one would expect, Rogers also takes great pride in working on the subtler aspects to his game, no matter how overlooked. For example, he was named the best blocking receiver in all of the NCAA by Pro Football Focus.
"It was a big honor for me, but it just shows how hard I work and that I'm a team player. I take great pride in being the best at something," he said.
At this time last year, all the wide receivers took some time off to socialize and go paintballing together. This year, however, things are much different.
"No paintballing this year," Rogers chuckled. "We've been all business. We emphasize our connection and bond with each other. We've focused on our chemistry between and the quarterbacks all offseason so we can get comfortable no matter who's taking snaps. Our dedication has been stronger than ever."
While the Compton native and Carson High graduate practiced as hard as ever this offseason, he also spent some time pursuing personal interests off the field.
Rogers uncovered passions he hopes to pursue after his football career is over. He took a public speaking class last semester and isn't bashful in front of crowds. "I'm pretty good at it," he bragged playfully.
But talking isn't the only thing he can do behind a microphone. Rogers loves R&B and rap music, and prides himself on his own rapping ability.
"I love sports, and my dream is to be a football TV broadcaster one day," he said. "But if that doesn't work out, maybe there's a place for me in the music world."
For now, Rogers is focused on the next five months. The Trojans are a young team and they'll need his veteran experience to stay in contention for the Pac-12 Championship and beyond. Sure, Rogers may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest player on the field--but he's someone his coaches and teammates can count on. The Trojans have their No. 1.
USC plays at No. 7 Stanford on Saturday at 5 p.m. on ABC.