Yesterday I talked with ex-Chargers Free Safety Rogers Beckett. When he was starting alongside Rodney Harrison, Rogers was one of my favorite players. He played smart, he was good in coverage and he could lay a hit almost as well as Rodney (that's a compliment).
The other day I came upon this opportunity to talk to Rogers and I wondered....what ever happened to him? I remembered him being good and then I remember him being gone, and that's about it. A quick look at his stats shows that after starting in San Diego for two seasons he was replaced by....Jerry Wilson. Nobody liked that move when it happened, and nobody likes it now, but it happened.
Beckett went on to have his best season in Cincinnati, but called it quits the next season at the age of 27. So why did it end? In this interview, Rogers answers that question, as well as going into the difference between Riley and Schottenheimer, what it was like to play with Seau and Harrison and the progression of the Safety position in the last decade. Come check it out after the jump.
While you were playing did you consider yourself a Free Safety or Strong Safety?
I played both, but I guess for the most part I'm a Free Safety.
I know you as a Free Safety with the Chargers, but I know once you went to Cincinnati you played as a Strong Safety.
I fit better into the Strong Safety position in Cincinnati.
Do you think it was a case of you being a Strong Safety in San Diego, but the coaches wanted to get you on the field without having to move Rodney Harrison?
I honestly couldn't tell you. I took it to be that San Diego recruited me to be a Free Safety. As opposed to Cincinnati, where I fit their Strong Safety role from how that scheme ran.
Why did your career end at such a young age?
I had a neck injury that I sustained playing with Cincinnati which pretty much caused it to come to an end. It was a herniation in the neck.
Is the neck any better now? Does it effect you in your day-to-day life?
I still have, I would say, complications from it. I have my days, you know. Some days are better than others. I function on a day-to-day basis fairly well.
What have you been doing since you got out of football?
A lot of different endeavors. After football I went back and finished up my Masters in Public Administration. I'm currently doing real estate investment and helping in my community.
It's been pretty active. I've been more busy now, since I left the NFL, than I was when I was there. You know, you get out here and you have to make it for yourself. You get into a lot of different things and just make it work out for the betterment of however it needs to go.
Do you ever have any desire to go back try coaching at the college or pro level?
I have been asked to coach at the college level but at the time I was just kinda tired with football. I have had thoughts about going back into that arena. From that perspective, I've thought about maybe doing training and things like that, in being more involved with kids and showing them what I've learned from playing the sport.
What was it like playing with Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau? What did you learn from being in a defense with them?
Looking at those guys, they were true gladiators of their time. I'm not quite sure if you're going to see football players like them anymore. They were just the type of guys that they gave all they got on every down, whether it was in practice or a game. You can see that through the longevity that they had in their careers. Those guys really loved playing football and it showed when they got on the field. That's why they were great football players and went on to do great things in the NFL.
Sometimes when you're around that you don't realize it until it's gone, but it was great to be in that defense and share the field with two guys that are more-than-likely going to be in the Hall of Fame. It was an honor to play with them and I wish I could've been just as good as those guys, but other things happened.
You were part of the 2001 Chargers team that went 5-11 and lost 7 games by 5 points or less. That was also the only season that Jamal Williams missed significant time due to an injury. Do you think all those close losses and the team's poor record that year had a lot to do with Jamal being missed from the center of the line?
I'm quite sure it did because just looking at his play over the years, the guy controls and demolishes opponents. He really is a factor in the middle. He's been there a long time. He's been with the Chargers now, I would imagine, 10 or 11 years and he's a factor.
He's a Pro Bowl player and every year he comes out and he plays tremendous. I think he bring a lot of energy to the game and that type of dependency that you know, once that guy's in the lineup he's going to handle his business and make it happen. My hat goes off to him, he's doing a great job and continuing to play well at a high level at his age.
During his tenure as the Chargers' head coach, Mike Riley's teams had a knack for losing close games. do you think the way he coached or the way that he ran training camp had anything to do with that?
I really can't say that. I know that when I look back on it, it's a shame that our team wasn't able to put it together where we can go out there and win it for him. I think he was a great coach. I think he had a pretty good approach to it. I just don't think that all the things were in the right place at the time. We had situations with quarterbacking, we had a lot of turnover with our defensive coordinators with Joe Pascale being injured. There was a lot of transition and turnover during that season, and sometimes I think that factored out to play a part in it. What was missing was the continuity of the team because there were a lot of different things going on, and that definitely hindered Coach Riley's efforts in the NFL.
You spent a year playing for Coach Schottenheimer when he was brought in. What was the difference between playing for Coach Riley and Coach Schottenheimer?
Coach Schottenheimer came in with an attitude of "Get it right the first time." He was really hard on you. He was an old school coach.. He's done it this way, he's won doing it this way. So it just was a transition and getting the team to buy into what he was saying and believing in what he was saying.
I think his approach was a little bit different from Coach Riley's. Marty Schottenheimer is a very vocal coach, but he has the records that speak for themselves. He was a good coach. I think you started to see exactly how good of a coach he was in his third or fourth year because he got the Chargers back into the playoffs. I think he did a good job, but sometimes it's just a matter of getting the right things in place and then you build upon it. My hat also goes off to him. He had a way of doing the things that he did and he did them well and I think it showed over time.
What do you miss most about playing?
Mostly I just miss being in the atmosphere. Sundays, being out there playing and putting forth the effort. The camaraderie of being around the guys every day in the locker room and just enjoying it. Looking back on it, sometimes you take things for granted. You don't realize that you truly only have a short window to do this because at a certain point you're going to be too old to do it. It's not like you're not able to do it, it's just that you're too old for the game. It's just a short window that you have to make the best of it and take advantage of all situations.
Did you see We Are Marshall? Did you like it?
Yeah, I actually saw it for the first time last year. We had a 1996 reunion and they did the end portion of We Are Marshall and they had all those guys there from the movie. It was a pretty big atmosphere. The movie was pretty much along the lines of the stories I heard when I went there.
Being in an environment, knowing how much the school means to that community is big. Marshall is almost like a big close-knit family. The city of Huntington, Barboursville and that whole tri-city area bleeds green and white. It was great playing there, I enjoyed it. Hopefully my son and daughter will go there one day and experience what I did.
I've noticed that since that movie came out, there's a lot of colleges and high schools out there that have been taking that motto as their own (i.e."We Are Penn State"). Does that bother you?
That's funny that you say that because I did recognize some other school doing it, but I guess in a way it's just a sense of pride and a sense of tradition that some people want to be a part of. If they can make a tradition out of it, that's great. It just speaks high volumes for Marshall, from the incident and the school as a whole, that it's leaking off into other areas. I just see it as a point of tradition reaching other communities.
Do you still watch a lot of NFL? Who do you root for?
Honestly, I look at it when I get a chance but it's not like I make a point to see it, but when I do have time to sit down and look at a football game I do. I'm just happy to see guys that I've played with and I know personally that are still out there playing and having a good time.
I wouldn't say that I specifically root for any team, I always wish that the Chargers and Bengals do well, but I just like seeing a good football game. Whether it's a good athletic move from somebody on offense or a big hit or whatever from somebody on defense, just to see the talent levels that are out on the field and seeing their abilities. I know what effort they're putting into it, so it means a little bit more to me than to the average guy sitting on the couch that's saying "He should've did this" or "He should've done that." I just like to see good clean hard-nose football. I just enjoy looking at the sport of it at this point. It's not really this team or the other team, just a good game.
Who is your favorite NFL Safety of all time?
My favorite safety of all time is Ronnie Lott. That's who I tried to model myself after. That's why through high school and in college, I wore that number. Growing up, San Francisco was my team. So that was it for me. Getting to that level was the pinnacle of my career. Unfortunately, it didn't last as long as his and I didn't make the accomplishments that he made.
Honestly, I don't know that there's a Safety who has played in the NFL in the last 10 or 15 years that doesn't answer that question with "Ronnie Lott."
I just think, in our generation, that's who the guy was. He played hard and every time you heard the word "Safety" that's the name you were hearing. Him and Steve Atwater. Steve Atwater came to play and he had that hit on Christian Okoye.
The style of play for a safety, when I came up, was a hard hitting safety. Now I think the game has changed to a more athletic safety that can play multiple roles: corner, nickel, safety. An all-around athlete. I think that position has evolved significantly and now when you hear "Safety" you hear "Ed Reed" and every time you see him he's picking off a ball. The game has progressed, the game has gotten quicker. More passes are being thrown and there's higher scores, so the game itself has changed. In the past, it was more of a balance with the running game, where you would grind it out, but it's changed significantly.
Do you have any projects or charities that you'd like to support?
Yeah, actually I've been getting more involved in community activities here in the city of Apopka, where I was born and raised. The association that I'm dealing with now is Orange County Project, which deals with betterment and physical change in the community. The program itself is called South Apopka Safe Neighborhoods. Anyone can go to our website and that site will talk about what we're there for, what our motivation is and hopefully the change we can bring to our community. That's the biggest thing I have going on as far as a community level.
Outside of that I'm just doing business deals on the real estate market with my company Beckwood Real Estate & Development. So those are the two things I'd like to put out there, but I'm more happy about the community effort because I'm really involved, really in the fabric of the community and I see change that I could possibly do myself along with the help of others.
I'd like to again thank Rogers for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I've talked to a handful of ex-NFL players, in person and over the phone, and he was far and away the nicest. No BS, no ego, no anything. You can tell he loved the game and feels like he had a lot more football in him, but you can also hear that same passion when he talks about his community of Apopka, Florida or even when he talks about the Marshall University family. I hope his name pops up one day in terms of coaching, because I think he has a lot to offer the young players of today.
Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue? Any tips you want to send our way? Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.