The following continues with our series of interviews we recently enjoyed with the Legends of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. The 62nd Annual Induction Ceremony and Banquet that will feature the Class of 2024 as well as the “Walk of Fame” with past honorees is set for May 20 at the Columbia Convention Center.
Inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981, the bruising USC tailback (1977-80) was selected as the 1980 Heisman Trophy recipient and was a consensus All-American after leading the nation with 1,781 rushing yards. His jersey number 38 was retired by the University of South Carolina and he has a statute that honors him outside Williams-Brice Stadium.
The New Orleans Saints selected Rogers with the first overall pick of the 1981 NFL draft. As a rookie, he led the NFL in rushing with 1,674 yards and ran for more than 1,000 yards in four of his seven seasons playing for the Saints and Washington Redskins. He was named the 1981 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Rogers won a Super Bowl XXII (1987 season) ring with the Redskins, was twice named All-Pro and three times played in the Pro Bowl. The Duluth, Ga., native, who regularly attends our event, is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame and the Georgia Football Hall of Fame.
SCAHOF: What does it mean to be a member of the SCAHOF?
ROGERS: It lets me know that I had some great teammates and people that cared about playing football and wanted to win football games and we won a few football games my junior and senior year. I don’t like losing, I love winning and we did that my last couple of years at South Carolina.
SCAHOF: What did it mean to go on the road and win at Michigan your senior year?
ROGERS Well, I tell you what, that game right there was a good game for us and you know what they did, why we won that game? When they came out of the tunnel, they ran through us like we weren’t on the field. We got fired up and we went out there and took care of business. Oh, we took care of business that day. Obviously, that’s a day that Gamecock fans will never forget.
SCAHOF: What schools recruited you, and why did you ultimately choose to go to the University of South Carolina?
ROGERS South Carolina had two running backs leaving at the same time, Clarence Williams and Kevin Long. They were both good running backs and both played in the NFL. Clarence Williams was a good friend of mine and he told me some of the things I needed to work on. So, you know, I got a chance to get to know him a little bit.
Coach (Jim) Carlen told me, he said, “Son, if you want to start your football career, there wouldn’t be a better place than South Carolina.” I looked coach in his eyes, and I said (to myself), “He’s got that glow. I believe I’m going to South Carolina.”
I told my parents I was going to South Carolina. My mom, and they were like, “Oh no, you’re not.” They wanted me to go to Tennessee. I said, “It’s my decision, and I’m going to South Carolina.”
SCAHOF: Did you have a good relationship with Coach Carlen?
ROGERS: I did everything he told me to do, even if it wasn’t right, I still did it. You could say I was the ‘coach’s pet’ because if you were in charge like my head coach or my assistant coach, or anybody that had authority told me what to do, I did it.
SCAHOF: Talk about Johnnie Wright getting hurt and you becoming USC’s starting tailback as a junior.
ROGERS: The first game was against North Carolina and I was a tailback running like a fullback. My coach told me you need to learn how to start cutting and moving, you know, instead of running at them head on. I learned how to cut back and how to find the hole. I would just out-run them sometimes instead of running into them. That first game though, I was running into everything, anything that moved I was running into it. Then I started running to daylight and I tried to hit the hole as fast as I could. Things got a lot better as time went on. I got better at it. A lot better.
SCAHOF: Is there a game in your career that you remember the most?
ROGERS: We beat Clemson at home my junior year. I beat them one time. And I thought during my senior year, when we went up there to play them, I thought we were going to win that game, too, but they whipped us. I was just glad I beat them one time because that’s all we did during my time at South Carolina.
SCAHOF: Talk about your senior season, the pressure to perform with the eyes of
the nation on you and eventually winning the Heisman Trophy.
ROGERS: My teammates had my back and they would tell me before games, “George, you just be ready because we’re going to do the best we can … we’re going to block and you just run where you see daylight.” Those guys on the offensive line were blocking and that’s how you get yards. You don’t get yards because you’re playing by yourself. I had a great time though. Our offensive line was great. They got their job done and it helped me get my job done.
SCAHOF: What are your memories of the day you won the Heisman Trophy in New York. Who was with you, etc.?
ROGERS: My mom was in New York the last couple of days with me. We were excited about winning the Heisman Trophy but like I told my mom, it’s a team award and everybody’s trophy. It’s not only mine; it’s the guys that I played with. I think my teammates made more out of it than I did because those guys did their jobs.
SCAHOF: Do you go back to New York for other Heisman Trophy announcements?
ROGERS: We always go back, me and some of the other guys like Tony Dorsett, Mike Rozier and others. We all go back just to see how everybody’s doing. It’s fun times for sure.
SCAHOF: You’ve been a part of the Heisman House commercials. Are those fun?
ROGERS: The paychecks are fun but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a good experience though, it really is.
SCAHOF: What does it mean to have a statue and your number retired at the University of South Carolina?
ROGERS: I tell everybody, I didn’t do it by myself. I had a lot of people that made me look good. Even though my teammates aren’t the ones up there, they know I represent them and they represent me. So, it’s our trophy, (and) it’s our statue. It just happens to be my face on the statue. I give all the credit to my teammates because they made me look good.
SCAHOF: Were you surprised when you were the first pick of the 1981 NFL draft?
ROGERS: I didn’t care if I went in the 15th round. I said I was going to buy my mama a house. Whatever I had to do to buy her a house. However, I got on a football team. I just happen to be the number one pick. It goes to show that South Carolina had some really good football players. We had a good team, a good offensive line and when we went out and played, we left it all on the field.
SCAHOF: What are your thoughts on coach Shane Beamer and the job he’s doing at South Carolina?
ROGERS: He’s done a great job. Oh, man. I love Beamer. Beamer Ball. Let’s do it, baby.
This interview was conducted by Tony Ciuffo, a member of the SCAHOF’s board of directors. A native Charlestonian and a career media relations professional, Tony recently retired to Clemson. He can be reached at email@example.com.