PREP OPENERS: Autauga Academy’s Rogers tabbed as top AISA pre-season player
Autauga Academy’s Kendrick Rogers was selected as the top player by the coaches in the upcoming AISA season. (Photo by Drew Gayle)
By Tim Gayle
When the Alabama Independent School Association football coaches were polled over the summer for the best player in the private school organization, there were a variety of answers that primarily focused on skill players.
But one name was fresh on the coaches’ minds after watching seven-on-seven drills all summer. Finding a way to describe Autauga Academy sophomore sensation Kendrick Rogers wasn’t easy for Bessemer Academy coach Josh Wright.
“Reggie Bush,” said Wright as he searched for a comparison. “I’m trying to think of guys on the collegiate level like him because so many guys are programmed but Kendrick can do everything.
"He’s like a throwback Deion Sanders. Wherever you put him on the field, he’s usually going to be the best one out there. Watching him at seven-on-seven this summer, that kid’s going to play in the Southeastern Conference. He’s that electric. He just makes it look easy.”
Autauga Academy coach Bobby Carr said there’s something about the 5-foot-9, 155-pound sophomore that sets him apart from other players.
On a team loaded with talent, Carr promised that when the game was on the line, Rogers would get the ball and he demonstrated that in the Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools’ Kickoff Classic with Valwood School. Autauga had the ball for 13 snaps in the fourth quarter and all four passes, along with a handoff, went to Rogers.
“The good ones make it look easy,” Carr said. “If I had to compare him to a receiver right now playing college football, he looks like Calvin Ridley. Maybe not quite where Amari Cooper was, but somewhere in there.”
Rogers isn’t exactly a secret. He rushed for 129 yards last season (averaging 6.8 yards per carry), caught 50 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns and returned seven kickoffs for 200 yards (an average of 28.6). But his work at the University of Alabama and at Samford University in seven-on-seven drills this summer put him in an elite class of recruitable athletes.
At Alabama, they put a GPS tracker on Rogers and another receiver at camp, which provided the acceleration, lateral movement and other receiving skills so they can compare those traits with information they already have from Cooper, Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and other Crimson Tide receivers. Of course, they didn’t share that information with Carr.
“He’s special,” Carr said. “Players like that come along once or twice in a coach’s career.”
For Rogers, all of the attention is a little overwhelming at times.
“I expect to improve in all areas – catching the ball, footwork, getting off the line,” he said. “Last year, being a ninth grader, I went to Edgewood for two months before coming over here and at Edgewood I was playing running back. I came over here and I was nervous because I had just come out of junior high and was playing with people a lot bigger than me. This year, I have a lot more confidence in myself, to do what I know I can do.
“If I put more meat on my bones, I’d want to play running back but I like receiver. I think it fits me for my type of playing style.”
When Autauga participated in a 7-on-7 camp at Samford University in June, Bulldog head coach Chris Hatcher was so impressed he offered Rogers a scholarship.
“When Coach Carr texted me about 8 o’clock (the next day), I woke up about 9 and looked at the text,” Rogers said. “I just put my phone down. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to feel. I went and told my mom and mom didn’t say anything, she just started crying. When she started crying, that’s when it hit me.”
“I’m sure that’s not the last one he’ll get,” Carr said.
“When we went to Alabama, we played public schools with a lot of talent,” he said. “That helped a lot, to me, because (public schools) are way more physical and have a lot more athletes than we do. That gave us a taste of what we can do. That brought something out of us.”
And while it may bring out the best in a great athlete, he said he’s aware he has to get bigger and stronger to attract attention from bigger football programs.
“I know I’m going to have to put more weight on,” he said. “The doctor told me I had a high metabolism, so when I eat, it’s hard for me to gain weight. That’s the main key. And, of course, improve my game a lot more.”
Those that have watched him play like what they see right now.
“I can’t do what I do without him making plays,” Autauga Academy quarterback Tripp Carr said. “He makes my job easy. When you’re running around, he’s the guy you’re looking for. Throw it up, he’ll make a play for you. He’s that guy. You can’t really define the ‘it’ factor, but he’s got it. When you want a big play, you get the ball to that guy.”