MIDWEST RECRUITING: Michigan’s top recruit in 2020, Oak Park OL Justin Rogers, picks Kentucky
OAK PARK — The Oak Park gym erupted like the school had just won a championship. Students, teammates and ex-teammates flooded the gym floor, mobbing and congratulating Justin Rogers on his commitment to play football at Kentucky.
Seconds earlier, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound All-American offensive lineman had donned a Wildcats hat as a means of announcing his decision in front of a jam-packed gym filled wall-to-wall with well-wishers, including Oak Park 2018 grad Marquan McCall. The place went bonkers.
Especially, McCall, who plays on the defensive line for the Kentucky Wildcats and considers Rogers his “little brother.” McCall leapt out of his seat in the bleachers and rushed to hug Rogers, arriving before anyone else. Quite the feat for a 300-pounder. That’s how amped he was.
“I got so excited, I had to run up there and hug him, tell him I loved him and how I can’t wait to ride with him again at the college level,” McCall said. “I’m shaking, that’s how happy I am right now. Me and little bro are going to be doing big things in Lexington. Believe that.”
Rogers stunned many by choosing Kentucky, even after it made his Top 5 earlier this spring with Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio State and Michigan. He visited Georgia over the weekend.
“I want to go down there to Kentucky, hook back up with Marquan and help take Kentucky football to a whole other level,” Rogers said. “I want to be a part of building something special, something people will always remember. That’s what coach Stoops and his staff are doing there and it’s where I feel most at home.”
Mark Stoops has pumped life into the Kentucky program. He’s coming off three straight winning seasons, capped by a 10-3 campaign in 2018 in which the Wildcats won the Citrus Bowl, their first victory in a bowl game in a decade. Rogers received his first scholarship offer from Stoops back when he was only in the eighth grade.
“Kentucky was after me before anybody else, that means something to me,” he said. “I was looking for a second home, not just a place to go to school and play football. I found it all at Kentucky and now I’m ready to go there and make a lot of memories and make the most of this amazing opportunity.”
Rogers is the top recruit in the state of Michigan for the Class of 2020 and ranked as the No. 1 overall guard in the country by several scouting services. He was selected as an Under Armour All-American back in the winter. Along with McCall and sophomore blue-chipper Rayshawn Benny, Rogers represents a new fraternity of elite line prospects cultivated by esteemed coach Greg Carter at Oak Park, a man always known for grooming skill position players in previous stops at Detroit St. Martin DePorres and Inkster
“I like that we’re getting known for our line play lately,” said Carter with a chuckle and a grin. “We’ve always been known for finesse guys, the quarterbacks, running backs, wide outs, defensive backs, now we’re developing interior prospects and that breeds toughness across your roster.”
Rogers appreciates his role in the renaissance for line play in Carter’s system.
“I’m proud that we’re establishing a new trend with Oak Park football, where our program is known what we do up front and for having great recruits on the line,” he said. “We’ve found an identity in it. We’re a brotherhood. That’s one of the major reasons why I’m following Marquan to Kentucky. We want our legacy at Oak Park to be a pipeline of linemen. Marquan hopefully opened up the floodgates.”
Last season, Rogers clocked double duty and collected 66 tackles and six sacks at linebacker on defense. The Knights won the OAA White and finished 9-2. Besides Rogers, Oak Park returns three more blue chip recruits in offensive tackle Benny, cornerback Enzo Jennings and wide receiver Maliq Carr. Benny, Jennings and Carr are all still on the market.
Rogers intends on early enrolling at Kentucky next January. Oak Park’s starting quarterback the past three seasons, Dwan Mathis, graduated in December and enrolled early at Georgia. Rogers stayed with Mathis over the weekend on his visit to Athens.