Kris Freeman of White House Football sat down with Tennessee State University offensive tackle Rogers Gaines as the former White House Blue Devils star gets ready for the National Football League draft this weekend. Rogers Gaines would be the first player from White House High School to play professional sports in any of the top major pro leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).
The interview took place one day before the start of the National Football League draft, which is April 25-27, 2013.
Kris: What was the experience like at the National Football League Scouting Combine in February in Indianapolis?
Rogers: It was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do, but it was a blessing in disguise. A lot of folks be on the outside looking in thinking that the Combine is about fast 40s and who can benchpress the most, but there is more to it than just the on the field things they display on Saturday on day three when you have to perform on the field. There’s a lot more to it.
Kris: When did you start your preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine?
Rogers: You know, I wanted to get a jump on everyone so I started early. Normally, most people would take a little time off after the college football season and start about the middle of January, but I started in December as soon as I could. Right after my knee surgery, I was in there rehabbing and doing upper body. I missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury and had some minor surgery and started getting ready as quick as I could.
Kris: When was the point in your college career at Tennessee State that you first realized you had an opportunity to play in the National Football League?
Rogers: Probably in the midway to the end of my junior season. It didn’t hit me like full throttle until football camp started last summer and we had like two or three teams and scouts out there almost every practice.
Kris: What was your experience like at Tennessee State, and what was the college experience like compared to high school football?
Rogers: You are definitely playing against upper level of competition, but the biggest difference between high school football and college football is the speed of the game, and it’s like that from college football to the NFL. If you can adjust to the speed of the game at each level you have an opportunity to be successful, especially how other players come off the ball.
Kris: What is your biggest strength as a football player for the pro level?
Rogers: Basically, probably my footwork. Your feet are going to put you in the right place. Your agility is going to be a big plus.
Kris: Did the system at TSU prepare you well for the NFL, and what kind of offensive scheme did you run?
Rogers: Yeah, definitely. We ran a zone blocking scheme and a lot of teams in the league run the same type of blocking scheme and system we run and so yeah, that’s a big help.
Kris: So you have no idea where you are going to end up and how this weekend is going to go, but what does it mean to have a chance to play in the NFL?
Rogers: It definitely means a lot to me. I get a chance to prove my doubters wrong. And I worked this hard to get here, so I got to work every day harder to maintain it.
Kris: Would you have ever believed you would hear “Rogers Gaines NFL Draft” when you came to White House as a sophomore?
Rogers: Nah, definitely not. Coming in, I was always a basketball star and football wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t even want to play offense. I wanted to hit people and play defense, but my coaches told me they had a need at left tackle and God had bigger plans for me that I didn’t even realize. I wanted to be in the NBA seven and eight years down the road I thought I was going to be the next Charles Barkley or something but God works in mysterious ways.
Kris: So can you still hoop it up?
Rogers: Of course, I can do all that.
Kris: Is there anybody at TSU who can take you on the court?
Rogers: They may think they can, but nah, I can hold it down. I can still take it to the rack.
Kris: What was your experience like at White House?
Rogers: I love all my coaches. They were great. Tradition means something here and pride makes everything and that’s what it is going to take to appreciate it and be successful. If there is one thing I could emphasize to young players here, it’s how important it is to never give up on your dreams and to take care of things in the classroom. I had to sit out my first year at TSU because I had to get that taken care of and I never realized how important things like GPA and ACT scores were to your future.
Kris: So truth, where do you want to play in the National Football League?
Rogers: I don’t know. The Titans are my favorite team so I guess it would be really cool to play at home if I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity, but it doesn’t honestly matter, I am just ready to go and we’ll see what happens when I get that phone call on Saturday or whenever it is.
Kris: Have you been given a projection of a certain round?
Rogers: Most people say that it will be like a Saturday pick but I have heard everything from round three all the way to round seven (The nfl.com website projects as a sixth to seventh round). It doesn’t matter, I’m just ready to go.
Kris: So anywhere but Buffalo?
Rogers: Man, it’s cold up there. Seattle too. But who knows. I’ll play where I need to go.
Kris: What’s the next steps?
Rogers: I don’t actually know, but different teams have different reporting times and schedules and I just have to keep working hard and get better.
(Offensive and defensive line coach Mark Lamberth walks in the room)
Kris: So you could dunk on Mark Lamberth?
Rogers: Sure could, yeah. I’ll posterize him.
Copyright April 2013