Charles Rogers, Former Detroit Lions Player, Dies at 38

Benjamin VanHoose

Charles Rogers, the wide receiver who was the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, has died. He was 38.

Former coaches of the Michigan State football legend, who was a 1999 high school all-American, say Rogers died of liver failure, according to multiple outlets.

Rogers played three seasons in the NFL from 2003 to 2005 for the Detroit Lions, but the athlete struggled with several serious, career-halting injuries.

On Monday morning, the Detroit Lions issued a statement confirming Rogers’ death.

“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.”

Charles Rogers | Carlos Osorio/AP/Shutterstock

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Former NFL star Chris Baker reacted to the news on Twitter, writing: “Devastated to learn of the passing of my spartan brother Charles Rodgers. Spoke with his mom this morning. Please pray for her and his children. Please also be respectful of their privacy at this difficult time. Rip Chuck 💔”

According to a 2017 article from USA Today in which the athlete reflected on his history of painkiller addiction, Rogers was working at an auto repair shop in Florida as he tried to rebuild his life post-NFL.

“I am getting my life together. … A fresh start,” Rogers said at the time. “Do I need a little love? Yeah. Am I still trying to find Charles Rogers? Yeah. I stay optimistic and positive. I’ve been to hell and back, but I stay strong. I still have faith. I’m still a young man. It ain’t over. I’m going to be all right, you know? I’m going to be all right.”

Rogers set several records during his two seasons at Michigan State, still the school’s leader in touchdown catches with 27, according to ESPN, and he was given a wide receiver’s top honor in 2002 when he made 68 catches and 13 touchdowns that season.

“I’ll tell you, he was … he’s the best athlete I ever seen. I mean, honestly,” Don Durett, a former coach of Rogers, told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re talking about basketball, football and track together — he could have had a scholarship in all three sports. That’s how good.”

Durett added: “I haven’t seen nobody that fast that could do it all. He was just a blessed athlete that could do it all.”

Charles Rogers | Al Goldis/AP/Shutterstock

Speaking with MLive.com, Durett said he spoke with Rogers prior to his death.

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

One of his former high school coaches said Rogers was struggling with health conditions that required an organ transplant.

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

On Twitter, sports fans and fellow athletes mourned Rogers’ death, hailing him as the “best to ever do it” who is “gone far too soon.”