Murfreesboro (TN)Oakland High School '89
Vanderbilt University Class of 1993 '89-'92
I started playing football when I was 8 years old in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My dad had taught me the game from a very young age so by the time I reached the tackle football field I was more prepared than a lot of others. This allowed me to be better than the average 8 year old and that continued until I reached middle school. When I reached middle school with more that 800 students in 7th and 8th grade, I quickly realized that I would not always be a standout on the field. I managed to start at QB my 8th grade year and went on to high school and started for two years and led my team to the State Finals. I walked-on at Vanderbilt but was blessed to earn a full athletic Scholarship my Junior year. It was a great honor and still one of the happiest days of my life to earn the scholarship and relieve my family of the burden of paying for college. That said, my college athletic experience was the most challenging time in my life. Going from being the star quarterback to basically riding the bench for 4-years in college was a life changing experience. There was many excuses that I came up with for my own good; coaching changes, offensive philosophy change, recruiting differences - but in the end, the realization was that there were a lot better athletes and stiffer competition at this level of football. In addition, playing Quarterback - only one guy can play.
I realized that I would need focus on my studies and use the blessing of the scholarship to get my degree and focus on a life without football. This sport taught me a lot and I wouldn't trade my experiences because it prepared me for my current role in corporate America and more importantly as husband and father.
My advice to all athletes including my own sons will be to realize that in your small town you may be great but you will encounter better players as you get older. The same with the game of life, as you grow beyond college into your profession - there will come greater challenges as you strive to be the best you can be.
Joe, you were one of my first friends at Vandy along with Chicken Wing! You both were great guys and to this day still are. Joe, you worked hard in football and I never remember hearing you missing practices, not doing what coaches wanted you to do etc. You were a part of the team your first two years as a walk on as well as a part of the team when you were on scholarship (great job). I can remember you running scout team offense for the 1st string defense and just wanting to beat us in which you did on occasion. You always had that competitive spirit as well as being positive most of the time. The realization that to be that one guy who would lead the team as QB wasn't necessarily going to be you on Saturdays and then deciding that you would then use your time to focus on education is a great Check Your Game story and one that kids can learn from. Before you could make the decision to focus on your education, you had to really examine yourself, be real as well as humble and that's not easy to do! Thank-you so much for your transparency and humility to share this with me and to encourage other athletes. I really do appreciate it! -Gary Rogers