It seemed a simple-enough question.
I asked Da’Rick Rogers, whose name I had heard pronounced a half-dozen different ways and had said at least a few different ways myself, “what is the correct pronunciation of your first name?”
“I really don’t know if anybody says it right or not,” Rogers says with a laugh. “My mom (Deborah Rogers), she says it was supposed to be like David and Rick together, so she says DAY-rick. But I really don’t know how to pronounce it I’ve heard it so many different ways. I just know it’s everything but Derrick. Anything else is fine.”
Well, I asked, what do you say when you answer the phone?
“I say DAY-rick,” he told me. “But a lot of people want to say duh-REEK, because it rhymes with my nickname, ‘Da Freak.’ So I hear that a lot. It kind of depends on where somebody’s from. Country people say DAY-rick. People from the suburbs or the inner city say duh-REEK. I just answer to either.”
I suggested perhaps he should go with the initials, D.R. Then nobody would mispronounce it and, if his career takes off like everybody thinks it will, they could call him “Doctor Rogers.” Think of the marketing possibilities!
“Hmmm,” he said politely. “I’ll have to think about that.”
It took about that long to realize this wasn’t going to be your average interview. I went to Calhoun on Wednesday to get a firsthand look at the guy they call “Da Freak” for his freakish athletic skills. I knew all the football stuff, that he is one of just five five-star receivers in America, that he can break 4.4 seconds in the 40, that he has 40 catches for 767 yards and 9 TDs despite constant double teams, that he is 6-feet-3, 205 pounds and literally a man among boys. But I wanted try to find out a little more about this AJC Super 11 wide receiver and University of Georgia commitment.
I found him to be a very bright, articulate young man with a good healthy sense of humor about the whirlwind of attention that has come his way his senior season. He was also honest and frank about some of the issues he’s had to face.
In addition to Rogers, I talked to Calhoun coach Hal Lamb and to quarterback Nash Nance, a Vanderbilt commitment and one of Rogers’ closest friends.
Rogers and Nance first met as sophomores at The Darlington School, a private school in Rome where they both began high school. Rogers transferred to Calhoun as a junior and Nance followed him this past summer.
“People around here are just now kind of actually seeing what he can become,” said Nance, who has helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a 9-0 record and No. 1 ranking in Class AA. “I’ve seen him stand there and broad jump over 11 feet. You don’t see many guys do that in the pros. He’s a kid that can just stand there and jump up and hit the square on a basketball goal. Some of the times he’s run, some of the things he’s done just working out, it’s crazy. I don’t know if people know how good he really is.”
Said Lamb: “He’s as good an athlete as I’ve ever coached. He’s got everything that he needs to be big time. If he keeps his head on straight the sky’s the limit for him. I haven’t been around many five-star kids but if there is such a thing, he’s one of them. He’s got all the tools.”
Those tools were on full display last week when Rogers busted loose with 206 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a 34-0 win over Adairsville. One of the TDs came on a 96-yard reception, the other came on a 49-yard run, his only carry out of the “Wildcat package” the Yellow Jackets have recently installed for him.
With that lengthy introduction, I’ll simply share the Q&A of our interview:
Q: I saw you got a fifth star from both Scout.com and Rivals.com a couple of weeks ago. That a big deal to you?
A: “Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. Just shows I’ve been working hard. It kind of makes you want to work even harder. The harder you work the better the tributes are, I guess. There’s only like five or six [five-star prospects at wide receiver] this year, so it feels good to be one.”
Q: Yeah, but there’s some pressure that comes with that, too, isn’t there?
A: “I just try to take it all in and relax about it and brush the pressure away. I try to take it as motivation to just keep doing the right things. Coach is always telling me, do the right things and good things will happen to you. So I’ll just continue to do that.”
Q: So you’ve been committed to Georgia since June, but word is other teams are still coming after you. Who’s still pursuing you?
A: “Tennessee, USC and Florida. But I’m rock solid with Georgia.”
Q: What are some things they’re doing to try to get your attention?
A: “Hand-writing letters, coming to see me at lot, Facebook, MySpace, any means of communication they can find. They call my mom, they call the coaches, they call me. I try to avoid all recruiting but sometimes you can’t, so you have to talk to them. I’ll talk to them and tell them I’m locked into UGA. But they don’t care. They’ll still talk to you anyway.”
Q: Georgia’s obviously having a tough year, 4-4 so far. Do rival recruiters say anything about that?
A: “Oh yeah, they bring it up. But the way I see it is everybody has a down year. And it’s not really a down year. They’re just in a little slump. And from what I’ve seen the recruiting class coming in with me this year is going to help out a ton, especially on the defensive side where I feel like we’re lacking the most. Georgia’s going to be fine.”
Q: Since we’re on that subject, can you revisit your reasoning for choosing the Bulldogs?
A: “Mainly it was the coaches. I really couldn’t go wrong with the schools I was considering. So it really came down to personalities and getting to know the coaches and how the coaches approached me. Georgia really went way past football with me. They talked a lot about academics, about life. They came down here a lot, talked to my mother a lot. Really I just felt good about the coaches.”
Q: There’s a lot of scuttlebutt going around that you have some academic issues. Is that true?
A: “It’s something I’ve already got a handle on. I worked all summer; I’ve worked all fall. I’ve got all A’s and B’s right now. Last year I just wasn’t really focused. I just kind of goofed off. Your junior year is probably the last times you need to goof off and I goofed off most of the year. I was kind of on the borderline with B’s and some C’s. This year I’ve had to focus and get everything straight and right now I have all A’s and B’s. I just need to stay ahead of the pack now.”
Q: Talk about your relationship with Nash Nance.
A: “We first met over at Darlington. We’re pretty much like brothers, black and white brothers. I’m over there at his house all the time, hanging out, spending the night. I love him.”
Q: It looks like y’all have a lot of good players on offense, not just you and Nash.
A: “[Junior wide receiver] J. T. Palmer is a great player; he plays on the other side. We have a whole new line this year and they’ve done a great job. But mainly Dustin Christian. I feel like he’s one of the best junior backs in the state. Underrated. He’s kind of small but he’s thick up top and quick as a cat and hard to tackle. I don’t know what to say about him but he has just done some amazing things.”
Q: You guys are rolling, 9-0 heading into Friday’s game against Armuchee. What’s the feeling heading toward the playoffs?
A: “We’re getting better each and every week. Everything’s getting a little more up-tempo now. Last year we got better every game until the end of the season and I thing we’re on the same track. As long as we keep getting better we’re going to be hard to beat.”