South Carolina Heisman winner George Rogers’ story is one of ascension, success, stumbles and redemption. He just wishes his younger self knew then what he knows now. If only he could go back and enlighten himself, he joked on Friday. There’s so much to tell.
Rogers will have his opportunity to pass along his insight and experience to a budding group of standout athletes as keynote speaker of the second annual Best of Prep Sports Awards hosted by the Moultrie News on May 22 at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant.
Nearly 50 of the top athletes from the nine high schools in the Moultrie News’ coverage area will be honored with 30 awards ranging from specific sports to overall athletes of the year.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to meet and speak with the kids,” Rogers said Friday while participating in Kyle Petty’s 25th annual Charity Ride Across America. “They’re at a good age right now. They’re making big decisions. I hope they’re making the decisions they want to make. Don’t let anyone else influence you because this is your life and you have to live it.”
Rogers began his hall of fame football career at Duluth High School in Georgia where as a junior he rushed for 2,286 yards, one of the best performances in state history, to help guide the Wildcats to the state championship game.
Countless colleges sought out the services of the 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back. He landed at South Carolina because of a chance to play early and made the most of his opportunities. Rogers finished his college career as the Gamecocks’ all-time leading rusher along with the school's records for single-season rushing and yards per game. The College Football Hall of Fame inductee led the nation in rushing with 1,781 yards in 1980 to earn the Heisman Trophy that season as the best college football player in the nation.
“I was always humble,” Rogers said. “When success comes and you get a little older, you think you’re a grown man. You want to do what you want to do. You find out though that trying to be grown man isn’t all that.”
Rogers was the first overall pick of the 1980 NFL Draft and led the league in rushing as a rookie. He’d go on to become a three-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro selection and a Super Bowl champion but not without some hiccups along the way.
That’s part of the message Rogers wants to relay to the younger generation of upcoming athletes. Success can come quickly, he says, and it’s important to remain grounded and know how to handle it.
“I’ve been through things, good and bad,” Rogers said. “I had to learn some things as the first (draft) pick as I went along. People that didn’t mean me any good got me into some bad situations but, of course, I put myself in those situations. I had to come out of that. The main thing I got out of that, my advice I learned from my lesson, you’ve got to be poised. Make sure you don’t veer from what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Parents, coaches, teachers and all walks of sports fans are encouraged to attend the Best of Prep Sports Awards to celebrate the finest local athletes of Academic Magnet, Ashley Hall, Bishop England, First Baptist, Oceanside, Palmetto Christian, Philip Simmons, Porter-Gaud and Wando.
The event, emceed by news personality Dean Stephens, will begin at 6 p.m. Each award winner will be individually presented by Stephens and congratulated on stage by Rogers, who will be available for questions and photos during the event.
For tickets to the Best of Prep Sports Awards, visit moultrienews.com/bestofprep.