Zach Rogers can finally exhale.
After two years of an exhausting recruiting process, Rogers accepted a full scholarship to Division I University of Toledo on Thursday. He graduated from Elyria Catholic in the spring, but had been unsettled on his college choice. He will report to Toledo for practice Aug. 2.
“It was last-second. I’m glad it worked out,” Rogers said Friday after the signing was announced. “I just wanted to get done with the recruiting process.
“It was grueling and long. I just wanted it to be over. I just want to play somewhere.”
Rogers, All-Ohio for the Panthers, will play receiver for the Rockets. They had originally recruited him as a defensive back, where he was All-Ohio as a sophomore.
Rogers teamed with quarterback Danny Reaser to set a multitude of Panther records. Rogers (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) caught 90 passes for 1,533 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior as Elyria Catholic made the second round of the playoffs. He was the North Coast League’s White Division Player of the Year.
Despite the numbers, accolades and a lot of interest from colleges, Rogers didn’t have a Division I scholarship. He was planning to play for Bowling Green as a preferred walk-on before Toledo called with the full ride when one became available.
“It was a family decision for me,” said Rogers, who will major in sports medicine and physical therapy. “It’s a year’s tuition my mom doesn’t have to pay.”
The Rockets and Falcons are bitter rivals, and Rogers’ late switch may stoke the fires.
“That could,” he said. “But Bowling Green understands the situation.”
New Elyria Catholic coach Mike Polevacik said Toledo is a good landing spot for Rogers.
“They run the spread offense and that’s what we ran,” he said. “It’s a wonderful fit for him.
“I just wish for him it had happened sooner. It is amazing, even though signing day is in February, colleges are still looking all the way into summer. Toledo was very aware of Zach all junior year and senior year. He was definitely on their radar.”
Rogers said Toledo was one of the first schools to start talking to him as a junior.
“They’ve always been straightforward with me and honest with me,” he said. “I love the coaching staff.”
Polevacik, the defensive coordinator before replacing Ben Malbasa as head coach after the 2010 season, started Rogers as a defensive back as a sophomore.
“I saw his potential right away,” he said. “He was one of the tops in the county in picks.
“He is just tremendous when the ball is in the air. He can go up and get it better than almost everyone I’ve seen. He’s a playmaker.”
One of the first examples was an interception in Week 3 of 2008 against Youngstown Mooney.
“He went up and made a spinning, 360-degree interception in the air. Full extension,” Polevacik said. “You could tell he was special as a sophomore making big-time plays like that.”
Polevacik called Rogers “lightning-quick” but said he’d have to work on creating separation against Division I cornerbacks. EC teammate Alex Nielsen said working hard isn’t a problem for Rogers.
“He’s a great teammate,” said Nielsen, who orally committed to Kent State on Thursday. “He’s always busting his butt out there.”
Rogers will join Elyria High’s Danny Noble, a fifth-year senior at Toledo. The Panthers-Pioneers first-ever clash last fall earned Rogers’ vote as his favorite moment at EC.
“We made history with that game,” he said. “It’s going to be talked about for however long EC football and Elyria football continues. I can tell my kids and grandkids.
“And we lit it up.”
The Panthers won 56-35, as Rogers had 11 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
“He was by far unguardable. Just exciting to watch,” Polevacik said. “As defensive coordinator last year, he made my job easier.”
With the great unknown finally resolved, Rogers is eager to move forward.
“I just want to go in, get situated, get settled in and learn the playbook,” he said. “I’m psyched.”
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