One former Louisville football star is looking to become the first noteworthy star in the new-look XFL.
The NFL’s season may officially be in the books following the Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the San Francisco 49ers in Miami on Sunday evening, but that doesn’t mean football is over. In fact, for one former Louisville football star, the path to getting his career back to the place it once was will begin in just a matter of days.
For Eli Rogers, the path to the NFL looked a little different than most star receivers. After four great years for Louisville, playing alongside childhood friend Teddy Bridgewater, Rogers went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Instantly, head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers saw something in the 5’10 slot receiver who caught 176 passes over a four-year period in Louisville for a total of 2,020 yards and 12 touchdowns.
After an injury forced him to miss his first season, Rogers bounced back strong in 2016 making the Steelers ahead of several more notable players and ultimately grabbing a spot in the starting lineup as a rookie.
Rogers would go on to have several more successful seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing alongside star receiver Antonio Brown as well as JuJu Smith-Schuster. Rogers developed into a reliable fourth option for Ben Roethlisberger, using his speed and great hands in the slot as well as providing solid blocking.
Each year the Steelers would go to training camp with the receiver position loaded with talent, and while the writing was on the wall that Rogers would ultimately be the one cut – each year things ended with Rogers outperforming expectations and playing a bigger role than many expected.
At the end of his second season in 2017, Rogers suffered a bit of a stumble after tearing his ACL which would force him to miss the start of the following season for the Steelers in a year where many expected him to develop into the true starting slot receiver for Pittsburgh. Even with the injury, Pittsburgh rewarded Rogers with a new contract which brought him back to town for two more seasons.
2018 ended with Rogers starting in three games but finishing with career lows across the board before he was ultimately cut shortly after training camp in 2019.
That left Rogers’ football future in limbo. While a few NFL teams kicked the tires on the veteran receiver, Rogers ultimately decided to test the market in America’s newest football league the XFL.
Fast forward to February 3, 2020, just days before the kick-off of the XFL season and the four-year receiver is looking to make his impact felt in the new-look football league as one of the league’s most experienced players at his position.
Rogers will combine with a former national championship-winning quarterback, Cardale Jones, to instantly become of the league’s better QB/WR duo’s from day one. Suiting up for the DC Defenders, Rogers will be looking for a chance to prove he’s still the same guy who against all odds made the Steelers roster and produced with the odds stacked against him.
Whether it was playing for Louisville or the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rogers was never the flashiest receiver or the guy with the most talent, but time and time again he made big plays due to his incredible skill level and dedication to his craft.
The Defenders may not be getting the best receiver talent-wise in the league, but what they will get is a guy who is going to bring a top-notch effort every day and a guy more than willing and capable of doing all the right things that equal winning. Don’t be shocked to soon be hearing the name Eli Rogers being talked about as one of the XFL’s top receivers in their first year back on the scene.
Other former Louisville players who will suit for the XFL include Diontrez Mount (Tampa Bay Vipers) and James Quick (Dallas Renegades) while Jaylen Smith, Colin Holba, and Keith Towbridge were all drafted and could return to the league, depending upon their roster status for 2020
The Defenders will get their inaugural season started on Saturday, February 8th at 2:00 when they take on the Seattle Dragons on ABC.