Four months ago Justin Rogers gave a verbal commitment to Tommy Tuberville to play football at Texas Tech. Rogers is originally from Birmingham and as a high school senior in 2007 was reportedly recruited by Alabama and Auburn - while Tuberville was still head coach of the Tigers.
(See update below on the current status of Rogers at Texas Tech)
In an early 2008 recruiting coup for then-rookie Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, Rogers decided to eschew Tuberville’s Auburn, along with Alabama and sign with the Huskers.
Doug Segrest of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS reported the news of Rogers’ signing in Feb. 2008:
Vestavia Hills running back Justin Rogers is Nebraska bound.
“Justin’s going to Nebraska,” said Ken Rogers, the prospect’s father, Tuesday night. “We just told Coach (Bo) Pelini he’s coming.”
Rogers, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back, rushed for 5,322 yards and scored 59 touchdowns as a standout for Buddy Anderson with the Rebels.
Rogers visited Nebraska two weeks, taking along prep teammate Mason Wald, a Vestavia teammate. The 6-foot, 190-pound Wald originally committed to Samford but was offered by Nebraska after the official visit.
“Ken Rogers” is the “Kenny Rogers” who was recently accused of soliciting money from Mississippi State on behalf of Cam Newton’s father Cecil. Rogers has subsequently admitted that father Newton asked for up to $180,000 for his son to sign a letter of intent with the school.
Kenny Rogers was also reportedly in charge of his son’s college football recruiting process. A process that saw his son, a highly-touted running back at Vestavia Hills High School in Birmingham, ignore Alabama and Auburn in order to join a Nebraska program that was in ashes in 2008 thanks to the disastrous tenure of Bill Callahan.
That year Kenny Rogers also reportedly orchestrated Nebraska’s signing of his son’s Vestavia High School teammate Mason Wald. Despite having only an offer from Samford in hand, suddenly Wald was on his way to Lincoln with Justin Rogers.
Vestavia Hills safety Mason Wald’s storybook offseason is officially gold. Wald, who once seemed headed across town to Division I-AA Samford, will instead join high school teammate Justin Rogers as a Nebraska Cornhusker.
“Mason Wald just accepted a full ride with Nebraska,” said Ken Rogers, Justin’s father. “He and Justin are going to sign (letter of intent) together at 2:30 p.m.
Ah, but because of a snafu, Wald won’t actually sign until Thursday.
“I talked to Coach Pelini and he was thrilled. He told me, `We can’t wait to get those Alabama boys to Nebraska,’ ” the elder Rogers said.
Justin Rogers, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back, rushed for 5,322 yards and scored 59 touchdowns as a standout for Buddy Anderson with the Rebels. He was recruited as an athlete by Nebraska, and could wind up playing in the defensive secondary.
Wald is 6-foot, 190 pounds and could play safety or outside linebacker for the Cornhuskers.
Curt McKeever of the LINCOLN JOURNAL-STAR reported that Wald joining Rogers at Nebraska was somewhat of a surprise:
For a while Wednesday, it was thought Rogers might be the final addition to NUs class.
But Pelini said Nebraska is not completely finished with recruiting for this class, noting that coaches were still involved with two other players, one of those apparently being Wald.
So why did Kenny Rogers’ son want to attend Nebraska so badly? If you believe Justin Rogers, it wasn’t about the school, it was about the coach.
From the Jeff Straub of the DAILY NEBRASKAN on Feb. 8, 2008:
Two of the later commitments came from wide receiver Tim Marlowe of Ohio and running back Justin Rogers out of Birmingham, Ala.
Rogers said he was feeling the heat from everyone about going to a school in the South such as Alabama or Auburn. But Rogers knew wherever NU coach Bo Pelini ended up, that’s where he wanted to play football.
When Pelini became the new Husker head coach, Rogers was surprised.
“It shocked me at first, but I was going to stick with him,” Rogers said. “I’m looking forward to having great years up there, trying to break records. To tell you the truth, (the Huskers) weren’t even on the list. Coach Pelini was recruiting me at LSU; wherever he went, that’s where I was going.”
Rogers’ high school teammate, Mason Wald, will be joining him in Lincoln next fall. Rogers said his other friends were supportive of him going to the Cornhusker state but still surprised.
“I’m from Alabama, and they was like ‘Woah, where’d that come from?’” Rogers said. “I just told them about Bo Pelini. They were saying, ‘Man, you should’ve went somewhere closer so I can see you.’”
So had Pelini stayed at LSU, all indications are that Justin Rogers would’ve instead ended up in Baton Rouge, not Lincoln.
Despite his claim of an affinity for Pelini, Justin’s career as a Cornhusker was a short, and possibly turbulent one. He initially did not report to training camp his freshman year - then after eventually enrolling at the school, lasted just one year in Lincoln.
After not appearing in any games, Justin Rogers transferred to junior college.
Then in August, 2010, Rogers verbally committed to Tuberville, who had just taken over as head coach at Texas Tech.
The mind can’t help but run wild when contemplating why Justin Rogers - along with a lightly-recruited teammate - ended up at a broken-down (at the time) Nebraska program instead of signing with reported suitors Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Clemson.
With that kind of competition, at the time, Rogers was a relatively unexpected get for Bo Pelini.
I don’t want to overstate Justin Rogers’ potential, but to pluck a prospect out of Birmingham like Rogers from right under the noses of Alabama and Auburn is damn impressive - no matter who you are talking about.
Unless, of course, there were other factors involved in the recruitment of Rogers.
As for Tuberville signing Kenny Rogers’ son, Justin was reportedly recruited by Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State during his second go-round as a major college prospect.
Based on a past relationship with Tuberville and the fact that there weren’t any powerhouse schools in the recruitment mix, the Tech sign makes a lot more sense - at least in Justin’s particular situation.
That said, as Kenny Rogers obviously has had past access to top-flight college prospects like Cam Newton and Ryan Perriloux, might Tuberville have had a bit more in mind than just the services of a washout RB/DB from Nebraska?
In no way am I accusing Tuberville or Pelini of absolutely anything.
But knowing what we now know about Kenny Rogers, it can’t help but be a bit discomforting to NU and TT fans as the NCAA closes in on him.
UPDATE: Lubbock sports radio host Chris Level - who also publishes RedRaiderSports.com - has informed me that after offering Justin Rogers a scholarship, Tuberville and Texas Tech apparently pulled the offer recently.
Level cited academics as the reason for the decision.
Level did not confirm the exact timing of Tuberville pulling the scholarship offer, indicating that he first heard of it “early this week.” Initial reports of the Tuberville’s change of heart surfaced on various Texas Tech football websites midday yesterday.
While academics is being cited as the reason for dropping Rogers, the timing of the move perhaps speaks to the notorious reputation of Rogers’ father.
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