Then his name ascended to 2nd string at fullback on the depth chart.
Today, the ascension was completed.
Sam Rogers, the most decorated football player in the first decade of history at Hanover High School, was announced late Tuesday afternoon as the starting fullback for Virginia Tech when the Hokies open their 2013 season next Saturday in Atlanta against two-time defending National Champion Alabama in Atlanta.
Remember that Rogers was a walk-on freshman when he arrived at Blacksburg. He received two FCS scholarship offers, but in a conversation with HCS last December, he spoke at length about his desire to play college football at the highest level, even if that meant doing it the hard way.
Here's a portion of the profile of Rogers that ran in the Herald-Progress at the end of 2012.
"I don't want to settle for something less than that. I'm pretty sure it'll be at an FBS or FCS school. I know I can do it, I have confidence in myself and in my abilities, thanks to the wonderful influences I've had in my life."
Rogers has invited walk-on opportunities at both the University of Virginia and at Virginia Tech, and there will undoubtedly be more. But, lest you forget, while Rogers sells himself to colleges to find the right fit, he's also looking for the right coach.
"I'm looking for a coach that trusts me and trusts what I can do. At this point, you can't be picky if you're not the highest recruit. But I'm confident in what I can do on the field, and I'm looking for a staff that wants to win."
Rogers, though impressed with Mike London and UVA, felt the right choice was with Frank and Shane Beamer at Virginia Tech. The coaches have described him as working the hardest, and knowing the playbook better than anyone.
We are surprised by neither.
COMMENTARY: I have been watching high school football for over 30 years, and have called play-by-play on WHAN Radio Friday nights, now going into my 12th season.
A few players have shown "warrior-like" qualities from time to time. Sam Smith, Jeff Thompson, and Adrian Cavanaugh of Patrick Henry come to mind.
But no player has received the moniker of "warrior" on a regular basis from me, save one: Sam Rogers.
In 2011, he suffers an elbow injury mid-season that would shut the regular 16 year-old down for the year. He comes back, wears a protective brace, and, knowing he can't play quarterback, helps his team win the Central Region and go to the state semis playing H-Back and his showing his usual leadership on defense.
In 2012, he suffers a freak finger injury in practice, then returns to, again, lead the Hawks to the regional crown, and, appropriately, in the 2012 state semis against Stone Bridge, his last high school pass was a 4th and 23 completion of 27 yards to Donte Haynesworth for a touchdown in a comeback that fell short only because the clock ran out before Rogers could get the ball back in his hand.
I had never sought out a player after a game to compliment them after a broadcast....until that night. I found Sam, leaving the Hanover field for the final time in his uniform, by the Hawks statue, and told him he was a warrior.
He's proved it again.
Sam is making Hanover High School and Hanover County proud, as did many players before him (Jock Jones, Damien Woody, Erron Kinney to name just a few...). There are others from the Class of 2013 doing the same thing even now.
But this day we salute the warrior, Sam Rogers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to set my DVR for August 31st at 5:30pm. :)
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