By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Cornerback Carlos Rogers, the ninth overall pick, grinned as he stood behind three Super Bowl trophies at Redskins Park and recalled that quarterback Jason Campbell rarely threw in his direction during practices at Auburn. Moments later, Campbell, the 25th overall pick, explained half-jokingly that the decision was merely a gesture since the team's young defensive backs revered Rogers.
"They called him Mr. Rogers," Campbell said. "They called him 'Cash' because he cashes in on passes that come to his side. But he knows I've burned him."
The bond between the former college teammates was evident in a joint news conference as the Washington Redskins introduced their first-round picks yesterday. Despite playing on opposite sides of the ball, Campbell and Rogers became good friends, largely because they roomed with their team's star tailbacks.
Campbell's college roommate was Ronnie Brown, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Miami Dolphins. And Rogers roomed with Carnell Williams, picked three spots later by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We were tight -- homeboys," Rogers said of the foursome. "We hung out every day, we'd go out and eat, do everything together. So me and Jason are real close."
The 6-foot, 199-pound Rogers and Campbell never envisioned playing on the same team, even after Washington's surprising interest in the 6-4, 223-pound quarterback became public late last week.
"Then when I heard that [the Redskins] traded for a first-round pick," Rogers said, "I was praying that he got there and he did. It's good to have a player on your [NFL] team you just played with."
Coach Joe Gibbs pointed out that Rogers and Campbell were part of a team that hadn't lost since Nov. 15, 2003, when Georgia won, 26-7. "Maybe we just like winners," Gibbs said, chuckling. "They go undefeated, we like them. We hope some of that will carry over to the Redskins."
Campbell was voted the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year as the Tigers went 13-0 and beat Virginia Tech, 16-13, in the Sugar Bowl. Rogers won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. Only 18 of the 65 passes thrown in Rogers's direction were completed.
With Fred Smoot's departure to the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent, Rogers has a good shot at becoming a starter opposite Shawn Springs. But Rogers starts the process behind nickel back Walt Harris.
"If you look at Gregg Williams's history as a coordinator, none of his first-rounders came in as a starter," said cornerbacks coach DeWayne Walker. "Even though we drafted him for a reason -- with Shawn [Springs] and Walt [Harris] you have two veterans and two 30-year-olds -- we're going to be patient with him and when the time is right he'll get in there.
"For Carlos, it's a pretty good situation for him. It gives us a chance on defense to really develop him. May the best man win."
Campbell has generated as much attention as Rogers because of Washington's quarterback situation. Campbell is an intriguing selection after the Redskins -- despite having Patrick Ramsey as the starter -- gave up three picks, including a 2006 first-round pick.
Yesterday, Campbell posed with Gibbs for photographers while holding a jersey bearing No. 17, which has been worn by former Redskins quarterbacks Doug Williams and Billy Kilmer.
The Redskins' only officially retired number is 33, which was worn by quarterback Sammy Baugh. But there's also an understanding that certain other numbers won't be worn -- including Sonny Jurgensen's 9, wide receiver Bobby Mitchell's 49 and wide receiver Art Monk's 81.
Campbell said he would seek permission from Williams -- a personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- who recently described Campbell as the best quarterback in the draft.
"He should be hearing from me within the next [few] days," Campbell said, chuckling.
Campbell said he did not choose No. 17 because Williams was the first black quarterback in Redskins history and the first to start in the Super Bowl. (Williams led Washington to a 42-10 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXII following the 1987 season, and was named the game's MVP.)
Campbell's father, Larry Campbell, noted yesterday that his son wore No. 17 in college. Jason Campbell wanted to wear No. 7 after graduating from Mississippi's Taylorsville High. But Larry Campbell said No. 7 was a retired jersey at Auburn, where it was worn by quarterback Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman trophy winner.
"He really respects Doug," Larry Campbell said. "But he's always wanted to wear number 17, so we'll see."