Charles Rogers, a sensational wide receiver at Michigan State who became one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all time, has died at the age of 38, according to tweets from friends and a statement by the Detroit Lions, the team that selected him with the No. 2 pick of the 2003 NFL draft.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Rogers,” the statement read. “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. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”
Don Durrett, Rogers’ football coach at Saginaw High School, and Marshall Thomas, the school’s athletic director and former boys’ basketball coach, told MLive.com that Rogers died of liver failure. He also had battled cancer.
“I called his mom at the hospital over the weekend and got a chance to talk to Charles,” Durrett said. “He said he was going to the Lord.”
Said Thomas: “He had cancer, whether that was related to his liver I don’t know. They had given him 30 days to live if he didn’t get a liver transplant.”
Rogers still holds the Michigan State career record with 27 touchdown catches and had a school-record 270 receiving yards in a 2001 game against Fresno State, numbers that persuaded the nearby Lions to use the second pick of the 2003 draft on him. But after a promising start, Rogers suffered a broken collarbone in practice and played only five games his rookie season, and he suffered the same injury on the third play of the 2004 season, ending it after just one quarter.
In a 2017 interview with the Lansing State Journal, Rogers said he became addicted to the painkiller Vicodin after suffering the injuries and blamed the Lions for getting him hooked.
“(The Lions) were giving them out like candy,” he said. “Whatever you want, man. Whatever you want. (They) weren’t even questioning as long as you are on the field. They were passing them out like Skittles. I was straight hooked on them things for three or four years.”
Rogers told the State Journal that he smoked marijuana every day during his NFL career and in 2005 received a four-game NFL suspension for failing multiple drug tests. The Lions cut him after the season and, saying he broke his contract by doing drugs and not staying in shape, demanded he return more than $10 million of his $14.4 million bonus he received.
His NFL career over after three abbreviated seasons, Rogers was arrested six times between September of 2008 and October of 2012 on various charges. He told the State Journal that he had not touched a pain pill in years, though he still admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana.
When contacted by the State Journal in 2017, Rogers was working at an auto-body shop in Fort Myers, Florida.