Professional Athlete/Coach Vero Beach High-School, ’70, ‘73-‘74 Clarke Rd. Secondary School ‘76-‘77 Kansas City Chiefs ‘80 (NFL) Winnipeg and Toronto ‘80-‘83(CFL) Tampa Bay Bandit/Denver Gold ‘83 (USFL)
I was a small kid growing up. I was what we used to call, “A gym rat.” I’m the third of four brothers. I give credit to for my love of sports to my two older brothers because on many occasions they would take me with them when they played and whatever the season, that was the sport? On one occasion in the 4th grade I learned that every Tuesday and Thursday a group of kids would leave early from class because of basketball practice. I eventually asked to join the team, played and ended up winning the state championship. During my freshman year of high-school I went out for our freshman football team. After about a week of training camp the Coach told me I’d be the 5th running back and was instead offered the water boy position. I would travel with the team and even get a letter sweater, but never would play. The closest to the field I got to was running out to grab the kicking tee during kickoffs. It was a humbling position, but I accepted the role and did what I could. It was my contribution to the team!
My Check Your Game moment took place years later, at age 19, when I eventually was recruited from the basketball court to play football by Coach Jim Ousley. After my 2 years of military service I was much more physical and had grown up when I started playing for the London Beefeaters up in Canada where I was born. I remember missing the receiving title by only 1 catch my very first year. Fast forward 4 years, I attended a free agent camp in Pittsburgh and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Although being undersized, undervalued and only good enough to serve water through my teenage years I grew in self confidence from the support of my teammates, coaches and family members. Being selected by an NFL football team was something I will always cherish. For me, it’s always been Faith, Family and Football. On the football side, without personal sacrifice, self discipline, countless hours of hard work, coachability and a relentless pursuit to be my best, my dream of one day playing professional football would never have happened.
Gary, I took the time when you texted me this morning to think about your questions in regard to advice or wisdom to share. It’s my belief that life is a succession of changes. You go from being a little kid to an adult and lots of changes happen.
Trial and error is a part of life.
Some of us have more mileage behind us (the older we get). We have life experience, good, bad or otherwise to draw from. We stay with stuff that works. We would never grow if things always worked? So, mistakes, methods and outcomes can lead to change …and when needed, change is good!! The difficulty is when faced with challenges that you have to make decisions. I found it beneficial when playing sports. There was structure and goal setting. By medical definition today, I may have had a level of “ADHD” when I was a kid? Sports were helpful. They kept both my body and brain busy. I needed that stuff. Goal setting helped me to focus and lock in to whatever I was trying to do to accomplish. How do I measure if I’m getting better? Sports and competition were my measuring stick. I was always driven by the coaches and players with sports. If kids get distracted, they don’t know how to get better. Some kids grow up in environments that aren’t good for healthy development. For me I was in a different environment. My Dad was a stern disciplinarian. If I ever did something that I shouldn’t have I never did that again (ha, ha). I’ve always had structure in my life. While with the KC Chiefs, Coach Levy and others were excellent coaches helping me along the way. Seemingly, goal setting and structure have always helped me to lock in!
Another area I’d like to touch on is the word love. I mean this sincerely, you MUST “love the game” or whatever it is that you pursue in life. Love it so much so that even on your worst day, you’ll still love it and stick with it!! Would you stick with something when 99 out of 100 people say not to do it, you’ll never make it? I knew what it’s like to be a water boy, wash the uniforms and slug equipment, etc. It’s beyond most people’s thoughts to go from those humble beginnings all the way to having the surreal experience of playing for the KC Chiefs against the Green Bay Packers. A match up that I watched on TV two decades earlier as a kid in Super Bowl. Even though I never played varsity high-school or college football I loved the game since I can remember.
Coachability was also essential. I listened intently and hung onto the Coaches every word. Whatever they said, I did exactly! I trusted my Coaches completely. I was in the military first from age 17 to 19, then I went to football. I guess it was there when I learned how to listen and do what others asked no matter how extreme or challenging?! TEAM! When I was in the Navy during seamanship training, they would put a group of us into a ship compartment with only several pieces of wood then flood the compartment. We then had to work as a team, plug the holes and figure it out. We did! Teamwork is important both in and out of sports. Don’t forget that. My advice is to love what you do, stick with your passion, be coachable and work as team because NO ONE achieves anything without the help of others!!!!
I’m now going into my 36th year of coaching and when I look back at going from water boy to playing the game at a high level, and then to coach for this long, it just boggles my mind in reflection but etches clearly in my mind that when you are of a single mind and purpose… “you can do it, too!” - Check Your Game
Wow Coach! What a story you had. When I played under Ray Jauch(your old coach) and you were a part of our team's coaching staff, I really had no idea about you or really anyone else. It's interesting how much I didn't know. I always liked you but I never knew all that you had gone through, especially being a water boy to playing professionally for the Chiefs and others. What an amazing story of humble beginnings. It sounded like your military background and father were instrumental in some of your ways in order to keep fighting and no excuses! I know there are others out there that might not be good enough right now, but give it time for their body to develop and the right attitude, work ethic and "love" and they too can be like you! Thank-you so much for sharing your personal story as I know it's been encouraging even to me though I can't play sports again! -Gary Rogers