SirVincent Rogers was knighted before he was old enough to know what it meant. He’ll gladly and proudly explain that his mother was too creative to simply name him Vincent Jr., after his father. Alfredia Watts wanted her oldest son to garner respect from the moment he introduced himself.
SirV, as he’s often called by his Toronto Argonauts teammates, spent most of his young life attaching accolades to his memorable name.
“I couldn’t settle, I was destined for something,” the towering 27-year-old said in Mississauga Wednesday. It often made him think about what his purpose was and how could he live up to the title he'd been given.
By his senior year at Jasper High School in Texas, he was selected by Associated Press as an Honorable Mention All-State lineman. At the University of Houston, the Cougar made his first collegiate start in 2004 against then-No.4 ranked Miami and was selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
His sophomore season was capped with a Conference USA Third Team nod in 2005, so it was no surprise that the Rogers name came with a lot of hype before he’d even hit his 20th birthday.
And then he hit a wall. The hype halted with a reconstructed knee in his true junior year in 2006, a redshirt year off that followed, and a broken foot in his senior year.
“Where I was supposed to be a pretty good player [and probably] be in the draft, it set me back,” he said. “Around the time I could have been working out and doing pro days, I was still recovering from the foot injury.”
Even feeling underprepared having spent so much time nursing injuries, Rogers made an impression working out for the Miami Dolphins and signed as a free agent in 2009.
The respect he’d worked so hard to earn was suddenly called into question when he unexpectedly left Dolphins practice early in camp. Behind closed doors, Rogers quietly made a more grown-up decision than most 23-year-olds would ever have to.
“The grind of everything going on in my life, persevering through the injury, I’d just had my daughter [in 2007], my mum was having health issues so I was trying to be there for her,” he said. “With the weight of everything and me being so young and inexperienced, I didn’t know how to be professional and I had to be a dad at the same time.”
Rogers was at Dolphins camp, but his mind was elsewhere. Everything was crashing down around him. He talked to his coaches, his circle, and made a decision to alter his course to one that didn't include football anymore.
“I felt it was better for me to not do it if I wasn’t all the way in it,” he said.
Miami wanted him to stay. The positive feedback was welcome, but Rogers signed off as a retired-reserve and headed home.
He made sure Mrs. Watts was okay. He prioritized being two-year-old Aaliyah’s dad. He enrolled back at the University of Houston to finish the final two courses of his degree.
Once he’d managed to get his responsibilities figured out, he recognized a familiar feeling returning.
“I was like, man. Football is still in me,” Rogers said. “I still have the ability. I’m still blessed to be able to do it. Why am I not?”
That positive feedback from the Dolphins paid off. He returned to working out; he started to figure out how he’d financially afford the move and emotionally afford to be away from his family.
Between the planning and the excitement, he re-injured his foot. The second chance was over before it could start and Miami injury waived him at his re-entry physical.
“Once I left the Dolphins, it was an uphill climb. Working your way back and trying to earn that respect you once had, I knew what I had to do,” Rogers said. “I knew no one was going to just open the door for me.”
The door was a revolving one of injuries and bad luck; another injury kept him out of action for the season when he signed with the now-defunct UFL Hartford Colonials in 2010. The team folded the next year when Rogers was healthy enough to play.
He crossed the country to play arena football with the Arizona Rattlers and won the Bowl in 2012. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles asked him to work out, but didn’t have a place for him.
Rogers tried another desert city, signing with the UFL’s Las Vegas franchise. Four games later, the league folded.
His first call from the Argonauts came, but Rogers hadn't thought about leaving his own country. He went back east to another AFL opportunity and signed a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Sharks at the beginning of 2013.
Weeks later, Canada called again and Rogers left Florida for Toronto.
“It’s tough. It tests your character, it tests your will and you really get to see what you’re about,” he said of the trying times since walking away from the game. “I’m not going to lie, something it was like, ‘Man is this ever going to happen? Am I ever going to get back to playing at a high level and finish this off strong the way I need to?’”
Football is unpredictable. The business closes more doors than it opens. Promise is quickly replaced by newer, younger and healthier players.
Rogers is a big presence. With the miles he’s travelled since his two-time stint with the Dolphins and the miles he’d tallied in wondering how to overcome the next setback, there’s no moment at the Argos’ facility where he looked burdened. Rogers looks at ease, with virtually no weight on his offensive-lineman’s shoulders.
“It’s because I’m able to be at peace knowing whatever happens in life is [God’s] purpose,” he said.
With the Rattlers, Rogers met with the team’s chaplain on Thursdays. It grew a seed in him, one that was planted as a kid growing up in the church. Rogers was refocused -- it’s how none of those roadblocks show now.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen or what your next move is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to be accepted or if they’re going to consider you a quitter and blackball you. you might never get a chance again,” he said. “I made a commitment to myself and to [God] that i’ll put in the work I need to put in and trust in him to do the rest.
“The opportunities and the doors just begin to open for me. I can’t really take any of the credit. God blessed me.”
He’s worried now about who he is and how he’s living as a man. He controls what he can control on the field, putting his heart and his body into practicing as hard as he can for the Double Blue.
“I’ve been in a position battle for left tackle [with Tony Washington]. Any athlete will tell you, if you’re in position battle, it’s stressful,” he said. “You don’t know who’s going to play from week to week. I just approach it like, I’ll do my best every week and whoever gets the start gets the start. I’ll lean on God for the rest.”
It took jumping the countless hurdles for Rogers to see things this way in football. He’s rarely homesick because he’s happy to be playing the outdoor game in Toronto.
Aaliyah, now five years old, FaceTimes her dad every day. Rogers says she’s proud of him, especially when she can see him on TV.
Most certainly, SirVincent is commanding the respect his mother wanted when his birth certificate was written.
“I would really hope so. She did everything she could to raise me to be a good man. I hope that I’m making her proud,” he said. “By no means have I reached the ceiling, but hopefully I’m on the right track.”