COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gamecocks legend George Rogers left it all on the football field, and then some, in his career. His many accolades are proof of that.
And even though he retired from the NFL in the 1980s, football players are still trying to emulate his career, which started in his hometown of Duluth, Georgia in 1958.
With support from his aunt, Othella Rogers, he worked incredibly hard at his craft, hauling himself up from humble beginnings to a football scholarship at the University of South Carolina.
During his time at USC, Rogers set the standard for Gamecock running backs with a still-record 5,204 rushing yards at the school.
Rogers though, said it wasn't all about him, and credited his success on the field to his offensive line. "I had good people to play in front of me," he explained. "You often can only do as good as your offensive line. At the University of South Carolina, I had a pretty good offensive line. I said if you guys can block it, I can run it, and that is how it was."
During the 1980 season, Rogers won the Heisman Trophy after leading the nation in rushing while topping the 100-yard mark in every game. He remains the Gamecocks' only Heisman winner.
The New Orleans Saints then drafted Rogers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft.
In the pros, he led the NFL in rushing his rookie season with 1,674 yards and 13 touchdowns. His dominance on the field earned him the honor of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, first-team All-Pro honors, and a Pro Bowl berth.
In 1985, he took his talents to the team now known as the Washington Commanders. Rogers helped lead them to a Super Bowl Championship in 1988.
Due to nagging injuries, Rogers would step away from the game, accumulating 7,176 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns in the NFL. "I played for seven years, and I enjoyed playing," Rogers said. "I started out with the New Orleans Saints and ended up with Washington, and I got a Super Bowl ring. So what else can I do?"
While successes mark his life, he also acknowledges that he faced some personal obstacles. "You're gonna stumble, some people do, and I have," he said. " People in South Carolina, they forgive you, but they don't forget. You know, I made mistakes. But the thing about it is, you've got to push through it. I'm a different, changed man in a better way."
Rogers said part of that change is thanks to being among a positive community, which includes his wife, Brenda, and seven children.
"I have a nice, wonderful wife that does everything for me," he boasted. "I cannot complain."
Even in retirement, the accolades continued to pour in. In 1997, Rogers was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He is also in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the Georgia Hall of Fame.
In 2015, he was honored with a statue outside of Williams-Brice Stadium, the first Gamecock athlete to receive that honor.
"For my family, for everybody, Gamecocks, it's great," said Rogers. "It'll be here a lot longer than I will (laughs)."
Even though Rogers is not hustling on the field, he is using his talents to help South Carolina students.
To ensure all teenagers have an opportunity at higher education, Rogers has dedicated part of his retirement to creating and running the George Rogers Foundation of the Carolinas. The foundation provides financial assistance to first-generation college students and financially supports local non-profit organizations, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Midlands, Special Olympics, and Habitat for Humanity.
When he is not working to raise money for his foundation or cheering on the Gamecocks at a sporting event, Rogers also likes to spend his time fishing. "I don't care what time it is," Rogers joked. "I go up there (Greenwood), and I sit for hours."
And after all these years, pride in school and program remains top of mind. When asked about his proudest moment thus far, the answer was simple: "To be a Gamecock."