With his parents, grandparents, and brother looking on, Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers walked across the stage and received his diploma from Grambling State University on Friday.
“It felt awesome,” he says. “I couldn’t stop smiling once I got my degree. It was just an exciting moment.”
The younger of two boys, Rogers describes himself growing up in Huntsville, Alabama as a character.
“I was just full of energy. I was the class clown – it could be anything, just find something to make my friends and family laugh.”
When he was 10 years old a movie, “Constellation,” was being shot in Huntsville.
“They did an open cast and my mom just asked me, ‘You want to do it?’ And I was like, ‘Why not?’”
He landed the part of a young Billy Dee Williams – and he shined alongside Williams, Gabrielle Union, and Hill Harper.
“The director and producer, they loved me and they told my mom we need to move out to California ASAP. So, we moved to California for four years,” he says. “I was in three more movies, I was in a commercial, I had a video game that I was the voice-over on. I had a lot of opportunities.”
But four years of Hollywood was enough for Rogers.
“Just working every day, that was a job. I started working at 10 every day. You might have 12-hour shifts. You have to have a tutor on set, you can’t be in the classroom. I wanted to be a kid again,” he says. “I just told my mom I wanted to go back and graduate.”
He thought he’d go back to acting after he graduated from high school, but football came along – and he shined at that too.
“I came back in eighth grade and when I came back, I wasn’t even going to play football going into high school. I was like, ‘They’re too big, man.’ I was little,” he says. “They convinced me to go back out there and I ended up being the quarterback.”
A walk-on at Grambling State, the quarterback turned wide receiver became the leading receiver for the Tigers, earned a scholarship, was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent, and went back last season to start a scholarship in his name.
“I might be the first childhood actor turned NFL football player,” he says.
He’s still got the acting bug.
“When I act, I just go into another world. You just transform to whatever character it is. You just have fun.”
It’s also what he loves about football.
“I look at it the same way. You’ve got thousands and thousands of people in the stands and you’re entertaining them. They’re depending on you to put on the show.”
But in football, you only get one take.
“You can’t retake and redo, that’s the different part about it.”
His acting background may come as a surprise to his Colts teammates.
“I’m actually quiet around here. You’ve got to get to know me,” he says. “I try not to bring a lot of spotlight, play my role – get in and do my job.”
But he says he still plans to return to acting some day.
“I really want to. I want to be able to do both. Why not? Take care of business here and then whenever I’m done – God willing, no time soon…”
Now, he’s got a degree in business management to fall back on – no matter what.
“That degree is something no one can take from you,” he says. “I’m just taking all this in right now. I have plans. But right now, it’s all football.”
From child star to NFL star – in America, you can be whatever you want to be.
Especially if you have a college degree.