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Back in the game: NFL great hosts golf classic to support alma mater

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- George Rogers wants to help Duluth football get back to its winning ways.

The former Wildcat great and 1980 Heisman Trophy winner hit the links at Northwood Country Club on Monday, hosting the inaugural George Rogers Golf Classic for the benefit of the high school football program he once carried to greatness.

"It's always good to come back, and this is the first time in a long time I've been back," Rogers said after his round. "I think the world of Duluth High School, because that's where I started."

Rogers claimed the Heisman Trophy for the University of South Carolina in 1980 and led the NFL in rushing during his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints.

Before that, though, Rogers and coach Cecil Morris helped Duluth "kill everybody," with state runner-up finishes in 1973 and 1975. Rogers still holds the Wildcats' single-season rushing record with 2,286 yards in 1975.

Thirty-five years later, both Rogers and Morris teed off to help turn around the program they love, one that has become a perennial doormat. The Wildcats posted a 1-19 mark in their last two seasons, and have gone a combined 6-54 over a six-year span that includes a pair of winless campaigns.

"We used to win games, man," Rogers said. "I think they've got so many schools around them now that they're not getting all the good players. They're fixing to come back around though."

Part of the reason Rogers may be thinking that is first-year head coach Corey Jarvis, who had great success during his tenure at DeKalb's M.L. King High School before taking the Duluth job in January.

Jarvis also played Monday before rushing off to begin the Wildcats' offseason practices later in the afternoon.

"He's been real supportive and we're just glad that he's able to come out and get back behind us," Jarvis said of Rogers. "And we're just hoping the excitement can continue."

The renewed vigor Rogers has for his alma mater seems like it will continue.

The relationship was rekindled in March, Rogers said, when several signs dubbing Duluth "the home of 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers" were erected at various entrances to the city.

Rogers lives in Columbia, S.C., helping his other alma mater with recruiting. That makes it tough to find time to come back home, but the former Pro Bowler says the tournament will become an annual thing.

"We had a good time, and that's what it's all about," Rogers said. "Trying to support Duluth High School and get those guys going in the right direction."