Former Oakland Raiders standout Stuart Schweigert was taken aback by the tragic passing of Charles Rogers earlier this week at the young age of 38.
“For me, it became almost a Rocky and Apollo Creed relationship,” Schweigert explained earlier this week. “You’re harsh competitors, but then you realize that you’re the same and dealing with the same issues. Then you hear he died, and you realize this is real life. We’re not kids anymore. He’s never coming back.
“That scares the heck out of me.”
The two had a history together rival stars at different high schools; Rogers at Saginaw High and Schweigert at Heritage. In 1999, Schweigert helped lead Heritage to a regular-season win over Saginaw High; Rogers and Saginaw High would later return the favor by defeating the Hawks in the playoffs en route to a state title.
The two competed against each other in a variety of sports – football, basketball, and track.
“When we were on the court or the field or the track or wherever, we were competitive,” Schweigert said. “We definitely wanted to beat each other. There was not a whole lot of talking on the field. We wanted to win.”
“We always respected each other. But when he got stabbed and punctured his lung during his senior season, I visited him in the hospital. After that, the relationship went from respect to friendship.”
Schweigert would continue his career at Purdue, while Rogers stayed in-state by attending Michigan State. In the two meetings the pair participated in between the Boilermakers and Spartans, it was Schweigert and Purdue who came out on top. Schweigert had high praise for his former rival and friend, saying that it didn't matter who he played with throughout his career – Rogers was the best.
“People ask me how good Charles Rogers was, and I tell them he was the best I’ve ever seen,” Schweigert said. “I’ve played with Pro Bowlers, Hall of Famers, guys like Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, Tim Brown.
“Charles Rogers was the best. He’s one of the most naturally gifted athletes I’ve ever been around. He would have won gold medals if he concentrated on track. He was so naturally gifted, but that comes with a price. When you’re that gifted, maybe you don’t establish the structure, the workouts or the discipline you might need later.”
Unfortunately, Rogers' NFL career didn't see the same success as his collegiate days with the Spartans. He was out of the league within three years after struggling with injuries and failed drug tests. After his passing earlier this week, it was revealed that Rogers had been battling both cancer and liver disease.
“He had fallen on hard times and felt people had deserted him,” Schweigert said. “He felt abandoned. I was trying to get him back to Saginaw, where people cared for him. Maybe he felt embarrassed, like everybody would be talking about him.
“He had so much pride. He couldn’t take that first step. I tried to tell him that it’s never as bad as you think. I’ve had some of the same struggles. You feel like a loser or a failure, and you think everybody else thinks like that. Then you talk to people and realize that’s not the case.”