Looking as good if not better than he did when he played for Tennessee in 2010-11, wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was back on campus for Tennessee's pro-day on Wednesday. It was an opportunity that Butch Jones and the Vols offered the former All-SEC performer turned Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle due to off-field antics, and Rogers was grateful.
"It felt good for (Tennessee) to open their arms and let me back in," Rogers said. "It was good to be back. It was a blessing and good to be back around a lot of good friends."
With every NFL team, represented, Rogers and his former teammates went to work and showcased their craft. The chemistry was easy to see in the passing session and Rogers felt like he picked right up where he left off.
"It's easy to come out and compete when you have guys like Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mychal Rivera, Zack Rogers and a great quarterback like Tyler Bray," Rogers said. "I had a lot of fun. We came out a few days before today and worked out and threw it a little bit. It felt good."
As a sophomore at Tennessee, Rogers caught 67 passes for 1040 yards and nine touchdowns. During his junior season at Tech, he caught 61 passes for 893 yards and ten touchdowns. He participated in the NFL combine last month and working out for NFL teams is tough, but Rogers says he's used to handling pressure.
"Just being both mentally and physically ready," Rogers said. "Mental as far as talking to coaches and physical as far as coming out here and giving your all on every rep. You have to have a short memory. If you drop a ball you have to pick it up, sprint out a few steps and get back to it and catch the next one. Today was about coming out and showing the NFL scouts what I'm all about. Another look is never a waste."
He's always had the tools physically and mentally on the field. It's the mental game off the field that put Rogers on the outside looking in at Tennessee. It's something that he's owned from the moment that he put on the purple and gold of Tech. A reality that hit him and made him re-evaluate his lifestyle.
"It was one of the biggest things," Rogers said. "Leaving Tennessee was a wake up call. I had to go to Tennessee Tech and I was humbled. Being there with guys that would have killed to be at Tennessee. That had to humble me and I had to look in the mirror. I had some maturing that I had to do and I've done those things. I'm in the right direction and I'm making those strides to be a more mature man."
No matter how much he's done to put a good foot forward, Rogers is constantly reminded of his past. It's something that NFL teams are trying to sort through and find out of he's truly changed.
"Most definitely and it's understood," Rogers said. "I go in and I tell them I'm not here to defend that bio. Everything that you have is true. That's real. I did that and here are the things I'm doing to change that. I take full responsibility for that. It's a grind."
Rogers only has one private work out set up currently. He'll work out for the Buffalo Bills on April 12th and he just covets the chance to play in the league. He doesn't care which team drafts him or if he's even drafted. He just wants an opportunity to prove himself.
"I have no preference," Rogers said. "Any round. If they want to take me in the supplemental draft, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to put on a uniform and earn my way onto a team. I grew up a Falcons fan. That's hometown, but I'm willing to play for anybody."