Rogers Continues To Prove He Is One of the Best
By Joey Johnston
Aaron Murray, Drew Lock, David Greene, Chris Leak, Peyton Manning, Eric Zeier, Danny Wuerffel and Will Rogers?
Rogers, the Mississippi State quarterback, ranks eighth all-time in SEC career passing. He's behind some celebrity names. But he's also ahead of a dozen or so luminaries, including three Heisman Trophy winners and the most celebrated Bulldog quarterback of them all - Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys.
When Rogers guides the Bulldogs (8-4) against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 at Raymond James Stadium, he most certainly will become one of the top quarterbacks to ever play in the Tampa-based postseason game.
But mention Will Rogers to almost anyone and you'll hear, "Oh yeah, the guy who never met a man he didn't like.'' Rarely will anyone say, "Wow! The kid is incredibly underrated. He can really sling it.''
Rogers, a junior, will simply shrug his shoulders and continue his life's work.
Proving people wrong.
The ReliaQuest Bowl will be Rogers' 35th college game. He has 10,428 career passing yards - with a realistic shot at surpassing the SEC mark of 13,166 by Murray of the Georgia Bulldogs from 2010-13. Rogers also has 81 touchdown passes and just 22 interceptions while completing passes at a ridiculous 70.8 career percentage.
"The Mississippi State quarterback,'' Illinois coach Bret Bielema said, "is the real deal.''
But here's the other deal:
Rogers will never be considered a Heisman favorite or even an All-American. His video-game numbers are perceived to be a product of Mississippi State's "Air Raid'' system.
It's the system designed by the late Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, who passed away Dec. 12. It's funny, but whether it's Texas Tech, Washington State or Mississippi State, Leach always seemed to find an effective quarterback, even when that player wasn't at the top of anybody's recruiting ratings.
So Leach's quarterbacks inevitably got slapped with the "Product of the System'' label.
To which Leach always said: Phooey! (Or something like that).
Before his death, Leach addressed Rogers' effectiveness on Mississippi State's weekly football radio show.
System quarterback? Will Rogers?
"That usually comes from somebody who's a little jealous of his numbers,'' Leach said then. "If you add up the touchdowns, they count the same. If you add up the yards, they count th esame.''
Leach said Rogers' prowess even gave inspiration to Mississippi State's defense, which knew that a few stops would likely add up to victory because nobody in the SEC was finding a way to slow down Rogers.
"I can't control what somebody else thinks,'' Rogers said earlier this season. "I can only do my job and help my team win. That's enough.''
Rogers, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Brandon, Miss., who already holds the SEC career record for pass completions, doesn't need to prove anything. He competes against himself and is heartened by quotes like this one:
"If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.''
Who said it?
An actor, humorist and social commentator named Will Rogers.
You know, the other Will Rogers.