Luke Rogers is dealing with lifelong demons while demonizing Greater Spokane League football opponents.
“Football is why I’m in school,” the Rogers High senior and three-year starter said. “I would have quit a long time ago and gotten my GED and be working construction somewhere. I wouldn’t have put up with four years of high school.”
He’s as blunt as a bowling ball knocking down pins. If you get in his way, he has no problem trying to run over you. To know Luke Rogers, though, you have to know where he started and how far he’s come.
Throughout elementary and middle school, he had behavioral problems with his peers and specifically teachers. Many years he went through a couple of teachers. In seventh grade, things got so bad that he caused a substitute teacher to quit.
The anger issues followed him into high school. Pirates coach Matt Miethe was concerned with Rogers’ behavior off the field. He knew that if Rogers didn’t have a turnaround, he probably wouldn’t finish high school.
Miethe set up an intervention in the spring of Rogers’ sophomore year. Miethe brought together Rogers with his mother, five teachers Luke respected and principal Lori Wyborney.
“With a great season under his belt, we were worried because he was failing a couple more classes, fighting too often with his mom and starting to get into trouble fighting with guys and dealing with issues with his girlfriend,” Miethe said. “Luke was caught off guard a little bit. We talked pretty openly about his lack of attention to the important things in life that are not directly related to football. I basically told Luke I didn’t want him to be out five weeks (during a season) because he failed three or four classes in the spring. Or, even worse, getting kicked out of Rogers for fighting, or even in trouble with the law for doing something similar.”
Miethe said those involved in the intervention shared their concerns. Following that, most left the room. Miethe stayed and chatted with Rogers about the way he treated his mother, Rheanna Smilden. Wyborney was also present.
“I reminded him of how hard it is for a single mom to keep things in line,” Miethe said. “I shared some of my own experiences as I, too, grew up with a single mother in this area and we faced very similar circumstances. Our principal encouraged Luke to start treating his mother the way she deserved.
“It was actually pretty emotional for many of us in the room. To be honest, one of the things I am most proud of when it comes to Luke’s story is just how that relationship between Luke and his mother has changed. Luke has been very different from that day on. He’s not perfect, but he is a great kid with a bright future.”
Rogers had a relapse last season when was suspended for 10 days and missed two games because he pushed a fellow student during an argument about a girl.
“The old me would have started hitting him, but I restrained myself,” Rogers said. “It wasn’t the right thing to do, anyway. I apologized and now we are friends.”
Smilden said there’s been marked improvement in her son’s attitude and behavior since the intervention. But she wants to see more.
“It was almost unbearable before,” Smilden said. “It’s kind of hard to explain. He’s still a brat, but it’s normal teenage stuff. He has good times and bad times. He’s definitely had an improvement in school.”
She said she’s met with several counselors over the years and Luke has tried medication to control his emotions. She said you could put five counselors in a room and they’d have five different explanations for Luke’s problems.
The most important thing was Luke had to take responsibility for his actions and change.
Smilden gives much credit to Miethe.
“Miethe has been the most amazing gift for us,” she said.
“He’s been like a father figure to me,” said Rogers, who barely knows his father. “(My father has) been in and out of jail my whole life. I don’t know where he’s at now. He could be back in jail.”
Rogers, who fell 2 yards short of the GSL’s regular-season rushing title last year, realizes his two-game suspension last fall could keep him from achieving his goal this year of becoming just the second runner in league history to eclipse 4,000 yards in GSL games. He ranks seventh all time with 2,762.
He broke the school’s all-time career rushing record of 2,567 for all games, set by Mike Dorton in 1997, in the second game this fall, and he could put that mark out of reach for years to come by season’s end. He has 3,085 yards with five league games and a crossover game remaining.
Rogers was averaging 202 yards per game until Ferris held him to a season-low 175 last week.
He leads the league in rushing this season with 822 – 80 ahead of the next closest rusher, Davian Barlow of Mead.
Pound for pound, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Rogers may be the toughest player in the league.
“He’s one of the best players in the league without a doubt,” Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said. “He’s kind of a warrior. He runs hard and low and never stops.”
Rogers wants to play in college.
“Somebody will get a heckuva player,” Miethe said. “He’s a little undersized, but he’s so fast and explodes through tiny gaps. He does it often with little to no help. We don’t have any all-league linemen. He makes us a lot better and gets us a lot closer to winning games as anybody we’ve ever had.”
Rogers, who largely eschewed academics the first three years of high school, is spending half his school day in a program to help him raise his grade-point average. His goal is to raise it to 3.0 by year’s end.
“He’s been a work in progress,” Miethe said. “He’s a better person now.”