SDSU’s linebacker gives his all for team

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

The day before the Jackrabbit football team took the field against Indiana State, the atmosphere at Sioux Falls’ Joe Foss Field Airport was light.

Parents, media, boosters, doctors and SDSU administrators greeted players before their flight.

Nearly everyone was relaxed, except SDSU’s junior linebacker, Jimmy Rogers, who removed himself from the upbeat crowd to study his assignments.

He had earphones in and stared at sheets of paper, mentally picturing the game.

Rogers did not care to socialize as the only reason the Jacks were traveling 779 miles was to get a victory and go 3-1 in conference play.

“On and off the field, Jim is the most intense guy I know,” said Jacks’ defensive end, Tony Thompson. “If he thinks cutting off his arm is beneficial to the team, he’ll do it.”

So far, Rogers has assisted with 40 tackles and leads the Jacks with 69.

Against Indiana State, Rogers’ focus at the airport paved the way for him to lead the team in tackles, with eight, along with his linebacker teammate, Derek Domino.

The Jacks won, 49-9, ISU’s only touchdown was a halfback pass.

Last week was the fourth time Rogers led the team or was the co-leader in tackles (McNeese State, University of Northern Iowa and Youngstown State).

Rogers made a crucial fourth down stop inside the ISU 5-yard line, the second time Rogers and the defense forced the Sycamores with 0 points inside the 10-yard line.

The Hamilton High School graduate also had two blown tackles during the first drive, which Rogers could only smile after the game.

“You know, I always start off kind of rough, but I got my groove going and improved during the game,” he said.

Thompson says Rogers’ intensity fuels the whole defense during the game.

“When he is screaming, you can hear it, it’s easy to feed off that,” the lineman said. “When we’re down in our stance, he taps us and you just wondered, ‘What are you doing now, Jim?'”

According to his coaches and teammates, Rogers knows one speed, and that’s full speed.

“Jim doesn’t take plays off, he doesn’t know how to,” said Thompson.

Even in practice, Rogers tries to make every moment count.

SDSU’s sophomore running back, Kyle Minett, mentioned that Rogers is the only guy who will run to the different practice stations.

Most of the other players will head to the stations at a slower speed or jog.

“Jimmy Rogers, I think, defines ‘leave nothing to chance.’ He just doesn’t mess around; he’s all business,” said SDSU’s head coach, John Stiegelmeier. “He has a 5.03-40 (time in the 40-yard dash), but he runs 5.03 every play. He plays the game and lives the game.”

The assumed captain next year and first team All-Great West linebacker puts his team first and makes use of his short time at SDSU.

Because of these facts, Stiegelmeier said Rogers, “will be a picture of a man who comes into our program, I’m here for a little bit, and I will make use of every second.”

With so much intensity focused on winning, Rogers is by far his toughest critic and will be the first one to admit that he missed opportunities in the home losses to McNeese State and Cal Poly.

The Chandler, Ariz., native had his hands on two passes against McNeese State. If Rogers had knocked down the ball, SDSU would have won the game. He also missed a tackle against Cal Poly, which allowed the Mustangs’ running back, Jono Grayson, to rush for a long touchdown run.

While Rogers will not forget about the plays he missed, he knows he must put it behind him for his teams’ sake. The junior will constantly announce that the team needs to watch film and get better, whenever he talks about his play.

Rogers has great respect for the coaching staff.

“I love playing for them. I put my heart on the line, every play,” he said.

Rogers understands how some players can take a play off here or there or take it easy during the season, but he tries to set the example, through his actions.

“It is aggravating, but I take on myself to push these guys to be the best players, they can be,” he said.

Rogers is annoyed with talk of how the Jacks are out of the playoff race already with four games to go. He points to last season and asks, “Why can’t we do it again?”

“He tries to bring you past his level of play,” said Thompson.

#1.882264:731423617.jpg:jimmy rogers.jpg:Jackrabbits linebacker Jimmy Rogers, left, tackles McNesse State wide receiver Steven Whitehead, right, at the Hobo Day game. Rogers leads the Jacks in tackles so far with 69 tackles.:Ethan Swanson