Justin Rogers Q&A: Healthy by fall for ‘new era’ at TCU

Louisiana four-star quarterback Justin Rogers is the highest-rated recruit to sign with TCU since Gary Patterson has been coach.

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie and outside receivers coach Rusty Burns won a long recruiting battle against LSU for Rogers, who also had a late suitor in new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.

Rogers will enroll at TCU in January and, if healthy, participate in spring practice. He is recovering from knee ligament surgery following an August injury in his high school season opener.

Rogers, the keynote player in what stands to be TCU’s highest-rated recruiting class ever by, spoke to the Star-Telegram in an interview this week from his home in Bossier City, La.

How hectic were the last few weeks?

“It got pretty hectic. It came down to three. LSU and TCU, of course. And A&M started pushing hard the last two weeks, once Jimbo got there.”

TCU has been recruiting you a long time. Do you remember the first time you met Sonny Cumbie?

“Oh yeah, two years ago, he actually was in town recruiting our other quarterback, Keondre Wudtee, who went to Oklahoma State. He met my brother first, as you probably read. My brother had already been texting me, letting me know he was stopping by.”

Did you know Coach Cumbie’s reputation as a quarterback coach and his records at Texas Tech?

Not really. I knew TCU, of course, and Coach Patterson. I have a habit of, once I meet coaches, looking them up. I got to watch a couple of games. Watched him play against Aaron Rodgers.”

He wasn’t as fast as you, but he could get it out quick.

You’ve got to. You’ve got defensive ends and defensive linemen running 4.5. You’ve got to get it out quick.

Have you always played quarterback?

I always wanted to play quarterback in middle school and growing up. Some people didn’t think I could become one, so I played pretty much every other position, from running back to receiver to tight end to defensive end. That really kind of instilled the quality I have now of looking at the game from different positions.

It must have helped to learn to run like a running back.

I had a lot of friends and we played a lot of football and basketball and baseball. Anything with a ball, all day every day, so you had no choice but to gain speed and become athletic.

Was enrolling early in college always the plan?

It’s something that I wanted to do since my freshman year. I like being ahead of the curve or doing things one step ahead of everybody else. I felt there wasn’t anything left for me to do in high school. I finished all my classes. There’s only a certain amount of training you can get back at home. If you want to get ready for college, why not go get coached by college coaches?

What are your impressions of TCU next season?

It’s a young team. They lost a quarterback in Kenny Hill, John Diarse, some key guys. It’s going to be a young team. I consider a team young whenever it loses its quarterback. I wouldn’t say it’s starting over, but it’s like a new beginning or a new era. The class they’re bringing in this year is a big class. A lot of those guys will be impact players. The future for TCU looks bright.

What did you think about the recruiting class? It’s ranked 20th in the country.

That was one of the reasons I committed so early, just because a lot of cats don’t like to go to a school where they don’t know if they’re going to have a quarterback, whether it’s offense or defensive players. That’s just how it is, so I put my recruiting hat on. Got T-Hunt and Ben Wilson.

How did you get to know Ben Wilson, since he played in Washington?

I saw his top schools through social media. Whenever I see somebody has TCU in their top schools, I’m automatically DM’ing them, hitting them up, trying to see what they’re thinking. And I DM’ed Ben, and once I did, he was like, “Already a done deal.” That’s what I like to hear.

And Tevailance Hunt?

I met him at a (TCU) camp. He was committed to Kansas at the time. We were playing basketball and trying to dunk, playing around. He just threw the ball up and one-hand dunked it. I didn’t know who he was. I mentioned it to Coach Burns. “Who is that?” He said, “You like him?” I was like yeah, we need to get him. That was before I even saw him on the field. So we went out to run routes, and I threw to him. I threw about six or seven passes to him, and I was, “Yeah. That dude’s going to be nice.”

How closely does the TCU offense match your high school offense?

It’s very, very similar. A lot of the terminology is very similar to the offense we ran my junior and sophomore year at Parkway. My senior year we got a new offense. But my junior and sophomore year, those years, the offense was very similar. I could see myself fitting well into it.

Shawn Robinson is a year ahead of you at quarterback and also a four-star. Did that affect your decision about TCU?

Not really. If you’re a competitor, a true competitor, you don’t worry about things like that. If you have faith in your abilities and the work that you put in, you’ll be successful, no matter what. You just leave it all in God’s hands. That’s always been my mentality. If you work hard and handle your business, it’ll take care of itself.

How would you feel about redshirting?

If the coaches feel I need to redshirt, then I’ll redshirt. But if I don’t and I’m ready to play, then I’ll play. But it’s just a day-by-day thing. We’ll see how far I come in this rehab and take it from there when the time comes.

How is your knee?

I’m fine. I’m great. I put a lot of faith in God throughout the rehab process, just knowing this will add more to my story and my journey playing football. I never doubted myself, never doubted God, always had faith. I’m feeling great. Every day, a little bit better.

What did the doctors tell you initially that first night?

They told me a lot. I really wasn’t in the mood at the time. I kind of just put my head down, went to sleep. I prayed. I prayed a long time. It was the first game of the season, my emotions were already amped up just because it was the first “last” game. It was just a long day. But now that I look back at it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Because I watched so much football, watching myself, watching games, I felt like I was becoming a coach. Just sitting back and watching other quarterbacks, learning from their mistakes, looking at the game from a different perspective, it’s been great for me.

That must have been a tough time early on.

It was. But Teddy Bridgewater, he hit me up my first night in the hospital. Our injuries were very similar. He let me know that everything was going to be fine. He texted that about 10 months from his injury, he was about 95 percent, feeling great. The injury helped him tremendously on the mental side of the game, sitting back and being able to learn. I had a lot of support from people around the country. It was great, being able to hear from different guys, different athletes. A lot of former TCU players follow me on Twitter. Boykin, those guys, they ended up following me right after the injury.

You must be a big Teddy Bridgewater fan.

Yes, I watched him at Louisville. I watched him when he started his career with the Vikings. It meant a lot that he hit me up like that. We had never talked or anything before. So for him to reach out and try to find my number and everything, it was pretty neat.

What did his text say?

He was basically just letting me know everything was going to be fine. He said ask a lot of questions so you know what’s going on with procedures and your timetable and how you need to handle your body. He was just letting me know everything was going to be fine and giving me direction.

How much did you follow TCU football?

I was hurt, so I watched every single game, every second. Once I was able to move around, I made it to the Texas game. I was able to catch a couple of games this year.

What did you think of Jalen Reagor?

We’ve had a relationship for a while. I think we first met last year around February. Once he flipped from OU, he put his recruiting hat on. He was trying to convince me to come to TCU.

Sounds like you have something in common. You both like to recruit and were recruiting for TCU.

If you look at it, Coach Patterson hasn’t had a Top-10 recruiting class yet, but the stuff that he’s doing without having those quote-unquote big-name guys, it tells you what kind of coaching staff he has and what kind of coach he is and the environment and the talent of the guys in the locker room.

Will it be intimidating to be called on to step into that environment and lead college players?

Not really. I’ve always had a leadership mentality, no matter what I do. It’s just something you have to work for, work hard, try not to make mistakes, give it your all. Once you’ve earned their trust, then you can become their leader and they’ll put a lot of faith in you. Going through the Elite 11 process, they taught us a lot about your first couple of months in college. When you first start out, just close your mouth and work hard. Just get there and work your butt off. Show those guys you’re buying into the program and you’re all about the program. Work hard, and over time you’ll gain their faith and trust.

How are you in the classroom?

Schoolwork has always come very easy to me. School comes before athletics at all times. That’s one of the things that the injury taught me, that football can be taken from you in the blink of an eye, so it’s always good to have something to fall back on if Plan A doesn’t work.

What are you doing between now and the first day at TCU?

I actually leave on Monday. These last couple of days, I’ve been with my family, relaxing. Because I won’t be back for a while. I’m staying. I’m doing a summer semester. Like I said, I like being ahead of the curve, so I’m going to take a couple of hours during the summer to get ahead. I’ll probably distance myself for a while so that I can get where I need to be.

You’ll be fully healthy?

Yes. By the fall, I’ll be fine.

What was the best thing you got for Christmas?

I didn’t really get anything. I didn’t ask for anything. I just spent time with my family and enjoyed the time with each other.

Well, they say it’s better to give than to receive, right?

Yeah (laughs).

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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