Today marks a rarity for the family of Carlos Rogers – a road game that actually feels like “home.”
“Kinda glad that it’s in the Dome,” said David Rogers, the father of the San Francisco 49ers’ starting cornerback who’ll have to drive only a couple hours from Evans to the Georgia Dome to watch his son face the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
Every fall has been one long road trip for the Rogers clan ever since Carlos graduated from Butler High School in 2001.
First it was four-hour road trips to Auburn for four seasons.
Then it was 90-minute flights from Columbia to Washington D.C. for six years.
Now it’s jet lag and cross-country flights to San Francisco since 2011.
“My family always comes out here,” Rogers said.
The entourage has gotten considerably smaller as the distance has gotten longer – just his parents, David and Linda; brother, Antrone; fiancée, Shauna Walker; and 3-year-old daughter, Gianni.
“It was a lot more of a family thing in Washington,” said his father. “It was a lot closer and a lot of my friends don’t like flying. To California is like a five-hour flight so ain’t too many people interested in going out there.”
Rogers picks up the travel tab for his family and revealed why in a toast to his parents at a recent family gathering.
“At Auburn, he had friends whose families couldn’t be there,” his father said. “He would say that he could always look up in the stands and see his parents there. It meant a lot to him and motivated him to play. He loves us to be there.”
His parents were at Candlestick Park a year ago when Rogers and the 49ers came oh-so-close to reaching the Super Bowl, losing to the New York Giants in overtime.
“That was a heartbreaker,” David said. “We had that game won but turnovers killed us.”
Then after last week’s victory over the Green Bay Packers, Rogers’ parents stuck around San Francisco to see who the Niners would face this week. A Seattle victory would mean another championship game at Candlestick. An Atlanta triumph would mean a homecoming.
David Rogers called it a “win-win” since Atlanta is where Rogers lives in the off-season.
“You wanted them to win (NFC Championship) in their home city and play Seattle again because of the beating they took by (the Seahawks) a few weeks before,” he said. “But after Seattle lost, I wasn’t disappointed. Didn’t have to worry about flying right back to California.”
Instead, David and Linda and an group of about 20 others will head up I-20 to Atlanta, where they’ve had rare chances to see their son play infrequently during the past 12 years. In 2001, Rogers lost as a freshman to North Carolina in the Peach Bowl. In 2004, his Auburn team extended an undefeated season with a Southeastern Conference Championship Game victory over Tennessee.
Only once has Rogers played in the Georgia Dome as a professional, with his Washington Redskins losing 31-17 in the 2009 regular season.
Today, however, the 49ers are road favorites against the Falcons and Rogers’ defensive matchups against Atlanta’s receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White will be a key to the outcome.
“They’re big receivers and tall,” said Rogers’ father. “But to be honest with you he’s more effective against big receivers being a tall corner. Wes Welker, Victor Cruz and Danny Amendola – little quick receivers – he gets so tired when he gets through covering those guys. It’s like little gnats. He’d rather face the Whites and Joneses because they’re big and you can get your hands on them.”
For most of the year, it was the San Francisco defense that fueled the team’s success. But part of the reason they’ve come to Georgia favored is the newfound productivity of the offense behind quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“They weren’t averaging but 20 points a game, so the defense had to make sure they kept the points to 17 or less,” said the elder Rogers. “The dimension that Kaepernick brings, you just never know how many points they can put up.”
His parents believe Rogers and his teammates have the experience and focus to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.
“He felt that he had unfinished business,” David said. “It kind of bothered him in the off-season because he felt they underachieved having a bye and the Super Bowl having to go through California (last year). That’s been a chip on his shoulder. They didn’t finish the job. That’s been their motto this year, to finish the job.”
If for some reason that job doesn’t get finished this afternoon, Rogers’ family won’t have to suffer a long trip home. And there’s even a small consolation prize for the life-long Georgians.
“I’m an Atlanta fan,” his dad admitted. “Live in Georgia and love Atlanta, but I go against them when Carlos is playing them. I’d be disappointed but not totally disappointed because it’s still Georgia. But we would love to see him get this one opportunity to get into the Super Bowl.”
If it happens, the good news is New Orleans is barely in the next time zone.