'Felt like home': Oak Park's Justin Rogers picks Kentucky over Michigan
Oak Park — Marquan McCall jumped off the Oak Park gymnasium bleachers and gave Justin Rogers a big hug Monday afternoon after Rogers announced his decision to attend and play football at the University of Kentucky.
Rogers, 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, is a two-way player for Oak Park and is ranked as the No. 1 guard in the nation for the 2020 class by the 247Sports Composite. He picked Kentucky over Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU.
Rogers took an official visit to Georgia over the weekend and enjoyed his trip, but said Kentucky just felt like home. Kentucky was his first offer, given to him when he was in the eighth grade.
Rogers talked about how Kentucky is a football program on the rise and he loves the fact McCall, a former Oak Park teammate, plays for the Wildcats, as does his former Little League teammate Deandre Square (Detroit Cass Tech).
Rogers plans to enroll early, in January, after playing his senior year for Oak Park this fall. Kentucky finished in the top 20 in the national rankings last season, winning 10 games, including a 27-24 Citrus Bowl win over Penn State
Rogers took an official visit to Kentucky in late April.
“Really, just now when I made the decision,” Rogers said when asked when he made his final choice. “I just came from Georgia for the weekend. They have a good program. I was down there having fun with my other teammate (Oak Park quarterback Dwan Mathis, who signed with Georgia). It was definitely in my mind to go down to Georgia and commit, but Kentucky felt like home since it was my first offer.
“I have Marquan down there, another teammate, Deandre Square. They have a good coaching staff. Coach (Mark) Stoops, Coach (Derrick) LeBlanc (defensive line), Coach Clink (Steve Clinkscale, defensive backs), the whole coaching staff is great.
"They are about to change Kentucky around and I’m trying to be a part of that.”
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Rogers is the Kentucky’s first five-star prospect outside the state of Kentucky since Rivals.com began rating recruits in 2002.
Kentucky’s biggest recruit outside of the state prior to Rogers was McCall, a four-star defensive tackle who was part of Kentucky’s 2018 class, then played in eight games as a true freshman. Square played in all 13 games at linebacker as a true freshman this past fall, including six tackles in his lone start against Penn State and earned freshman All-SEC honors by the league coaches.
Rogers had a video presentation to make his announcement in Oak Park’s gym. When he grabbed his Kentucky hat, McCall came running from the stands to welcome him to the Wildcats.
“He’s my brother and we’re about do it again like we did in high school,” McCall said. “I’m excited. My heart's pounding right now. I had to come hug him. I just wanted to play with him again. I didn’t know. He surprised me (with the decision). I’m shaking.”
Michigan was in the mix for Rogers when Josh Gattis came on board as the offensive coordinator. He came to Michigan from Alabama, where he was Nick Saban’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
Alabama and Clemson also offered Rogers.
“The new offensive coordinator, I clicked with him because I knew him at 'Bama,” Rogers said of Gattis. “I just built the bond back up, but I knew I wasn’t feeling it. Michigan definitely has a good program.”
While Rogers is the top-rated guard in the country, he will once again play right tackle this fall for Oak Park. He also played linebacker last season, getting in on 22 tackles for loss, seven sacks and forced four fumbles.
So, where will he play at Kentucky?
“He’ll play everything,” McCall said of Rogers. “He’ll play everything.”
Oak Park head coach Greg Carter is thrilled to have Rogers one more year.
He said he will play right tackle and possibly defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker.
“Of course, he’ll play defense, defensive tackle, defensive end,” Carter said. “Linebacker was out of necessity last year and it worked out well for us. I think he’s going to provide Kentucky with a lot of versatility and hopefully that will help him get on the field faster.”
Carter is a Kentucky fan, and not a new fan.
“I always was, my wife is from Lexington so I had no choice,” Carter said.
Carter has developed a pipeline to the college ranks on more than his share of linemen in recent years at Oak Park, starting with JaRaymond Hall in 2016 (Michigan, CMU), McCall (2017), Rogers and 2021 standout left tackle Rayshaun Benny, who has offers from Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and, yes, Kentucky.