Charles Rogers, ex-Lions wide receiver and college football star, dead at 38

Detroit Lions first round draft pick Charles Rogers (80) of Michigan State meets the media after the first practice of minicamp at the Lions’ training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, May 2, 2003. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Charles Rogers, a former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions and Michigan State, who was once thought of as a possible star in pro football, is dead after succumbing to liver failure and a cancer diagnosis, according to He was 38.

The announcement was made by his former coach Don Durrett, who he played for at Saginaw (Mich.)High School. By Monday, several fellow players had also come forward to express their condolences about his passing.

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“I’ll tell you, he was—and I’m including Flint, too, since I coached at Flint Northern all those years—he’s the best athlete I ever seen,” Durrett told the Detroit Free Press. “I mean, honestly. We’re talking about basketball, football and track together. He could have had a scholarship in all three sports. That’s how good. … I haven’t seen nobody that fast that could do it all. He was just a blessed athlete that could do it all.”

Rogers was seen as a brilliant wideout in high school and college. At Michigan State, he 135 catches, 2,821 yards, and 27 touchdowns. He was an All-American in 2002 and was given the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to college football’s best receiver.

He also had great potential when he was drafted as the Lions’ no. 2 pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, signing a $39.5 million contract. But during his three-year career with the team, he played just 15 games and ran for 440 yards, according to Yahoo! Sports. He broke his collarbone two times and admitted an addiction to Vicodin, as well as with alcohol and marijuana.

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After suspensions for marijuana use hastened his exit from the league, he wound up back in Saginaw and had run-ins with the law, including one in which he threatened his mother, who he accused of stealing $100,000 from him. By 2017, he was working in an auto shop in Fort Myers, Fla., owing the Lions $6.1 million of his $14.4 million signing bonus, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Recently, illness had set in and Rogers was told by doctors that not only was he dealing with cancer, but he needed a liver transplant soon.

“He had cancer, whether that was related to his liver I don’t know,” former Saginaw High basketball coach Marshall Thomas told “They had given him 30 days to live if he didn’t get a liver transplant.”

But Rogers was not able to get the care he needed in time.

“I called his mom at the hospital over the weekend and got a chance to talk to Charles,” Durrett told the publication. “He said he was going to the Lord.”

Memorials abound

Monday, The Lions released a statement that they “are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Rogers.”

“From Saginaw to East Lansing, to Detroit, Charles’ connection to the state of Michigan and its football community was felt by many during the course of his life,” the team said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

“Devastated to learn of the passing of my spartan brother Charles [Rogers],” former Michigan State teammate Chris Baker tweeted. “Spoke with his mom this morning. Please pray for her and his children. Please also be respectful of their privacy at this time. Rip Chuck.”