$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

Charles Rogers, former Michigan State star and Lions first-rounder, dead at 38

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Receiver Charles Rogers played in just 15 NFL games over three seasons as the Lions selected him No. 2 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Michigan State.

Charles Rogers, a former All-America receiver at Michigan State and No. 2 overall pick by the Detroit Lions, has died at age 38.

The Lions confirmed Rogers' death in a statement.

"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.”

Rogers' former Michigan State teammate, Chris Baker, posted on Twitter Monday morning that he spoke with Rogers' mother.

"Devastated to learn of the passing of my spartan brother Charles Rodgers," Baker posted. "Spoke with his mom this morning. Please pray for her and his children."

The cause of Rogers' death is unclear. The news spread quickly among Rogers' former teammates.

"I had heard he was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago," said Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, who played at Michigan State from 2000-03. "It’s certainly really sad. Untimely.

"Chuck was younger than me, but we played together and it’s just really unfortunate. His life had been made public the last couple years and it’s just sad to see how it has turned out."

Former Michigan State player and current radio analyst Jason Strayhorn was also close with Rogers during his time with the Spartans as well as his short NFL career.

"Very sad to hear of his passing," Strayhorn said.

The Lions selected Rogers No. 2 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, and the former Saginaw High star paid immediate dividends with two touchdown catches in his debut, a 42-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener.

However, his NFL career was short-lived, wracked by injuries and substance-abuse issues. In three seasons in Detroit, he played in just 15 games (nine starts) with 24 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

Steve Mariucci was Rogers' head coach with the Lions and he issued this statement through the team: 

"I am very saddened to hear of Charles’ passing. Charles was our first draft choice in my time with the Lions, and having the opportunity to select a premier player from Michigan State and a local Saginaw athlete was tremendously exciting. In coaching Charles, his talent and ability were very evident early on in his career. I feel strongly had he not suffered unfortunate injuries, he would have gone on to become an excellent NFL wide receiver. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I offer my deepest condolences during this difficult time."

Rogers spent just two seasons at Michigan State, racking up 2,821 yards on 135 catches (20.9 yards per catch), with 27 of his 29 career touchdowns coming through the air. He earned the Fred Biletnikoff Award in 2002 as the nation's top receiver, catching a then-school record 68 passes for 1,351 yards (19.9 average) and 13 touchdowns. He was a consensus Associated Press All-America selection.

“The Spartan football family is deeply saddened to learn the news of Charles Rogers passing away,” Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. “He was an incredible talent who set numerous records at Michigan State ... . I was here as an assistant coach during Charles’ first year on campus in 2000, and as a defense, we had to go against him in practice every day. He stopped by the football building a few years ago and was really excited and honored to see his All-America plaque and Biletnikoff Award on display in the lobby.

“We send our condolences to his family, friends and former teammates during this difficult time.”

Rogers was just the second Michigan State receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. His 12 career 100-yard receiving games is a school record, and he holds the single-game record for receiving yards (270 against Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Football Classic).

“Charles Rogers was a gifted young man,” Michigan State wide receivers coach Don Treadwell, who was also Rogers’ position coach at MSU, said in a statement. “He had the total package as a premier wide receiver with size, speed and range, topped with an awesome competitive spirit, yet he was humble off the field. It was a privilege to have coached him. He’s a great Spartan warrior who will be deeply missed.”

Rogers was born in Saginaw and played football at Saginaw High School. He was a five-star recruit and was ranked the No. 3 prospect overall in the nation in the 2000 class.