IUP receiver, Gateway product Ricky Rogers has all the right moves
Too bad the NCAA doesn’t allow end-zone celebrations.
If it did, IUP graduate transfer receiver Ricky Rogers could have provided lots of entertainment last week after scoring three touchdowns in his Crimson Hawks debut.
The Gateway product holds a dance degree from West Virginia and has performed since age 4. Rogers once served as a backup dancer in a Redman video.
“Whether I’m on a stage or a football field, I’m performing, and I love every second of it,” Rogers said.
Last week’s performance was a long time coming. Rogers redshirted as a freshman at WVU, then played in 14 games over the next three seasons, totaling three catches for 77 yards. In No. 4 IUP’s opener, Rogers finished with six catches for 73 yards, accounting for all three scores in a 21-17 victory at No. 15 Ashland.
“It was almost a reminder to myself that I could still play the game of football,” Rogers said.
From a Mountaineer to a Crimson Hawk
Rogers’ tenure at WVU featured ups and downs. There definitely was a lot of frustration, he said.
“It’s always hard when you think ‘OK, I’m just as good as the people in front of me. I’m up there with them. I know I can go out there and make some plays and have fun like they can.’”
On the other hand, Rogers earned his degree at WVU, plus he learned from fellow wideouts such as former first-round pick Kevin White, Ka’Raun White, Gary Jennings and David Sills V.
Rogers holds pro football aspirations, so with one more year of eligibility left, he targeted a school where he could make an impact. IUP defensive line coach Anthony Leonard was a graduate assistant at WVU during Rogers’ time there, so Leonard reached out. Rogers hoped to stay in the Pittsburgh area and wanted to play for a winning program, so the Crimson Hawks were a perfect match.
The same can be said of Rogers and IUP senior quarterback Lenny Williams, a Sto-Rox graduate. The two worked out together twice a week over the summer at the Steelers’ South Side facility, and chemistry quickly developed.
“Ricky is a long, taller receiver, so you’ve just got to put it up there,” IUP coach Paul Tortorella said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Rogers. “If Lenny just throws it anywhere where Ricky can get it, he’s going to be able to win all the 50-50 balls.
“Ricky is smart, too. He is definitely going to be where he is supposed to be on his routes and his conversions.”
Rogers’ dance background benefits him on the field. Body control, balance and footwork are crucial for a receiver. He has honed those skills while studying classic, jazz, tap, ballet, modern, contemporary and hip-hop since his childhood.
“I started dancing before I started playing football,” Rogers said. “My parents said I couldn’t sit still as a kid and I was always up dancing and moving. I loved to watch Michael Jackson videos and Prince and the movie ‘Dirty Dancing.’ ”
Rogers grew up in the Keystone Oaks school district but was cyber schooled from third through eighth grade and homeschooled after that. Rogers played football and basketball at Keystone Oaks. However, he said he began to experience emotional bullying there because of his interest in dance.
“There were certain people in that school who had a problem with it, and I don’t know why,” Rogers said. “There was a certain group that didn’t like that I was a dancer and a football player.”
Rogers did his best to block it out.
“Luckily I had enough outlets where I could express (myself), whether it was football, basketball or dance. I would take it with a grain of salt. I would use it as motivation sometimes. I was able to hear it but not really hear it, if that makes sense.”
After Rogers’ sophomore year, his family moved to Monroeville, and he spent his final two seasons playing for Gateway. Things got better, he said.
“Once I moved to Gateway, even throughout college, my teammates would come watch me dance,” Rogers said. “I feel like the older I got, the more cool it became to be a dancer.”
Those dancing skills are paying dividends for IUP, even if he has to hold back after touchdowns.
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at [email protected] or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.