Rogers enlisted in the Navy in 1992 after graduating from Central Valley High in Shasta Lake, Calif. After finishing his tour, he began a three-year hitch in the Army Reserve in 1996. He played for Shasta College in Redding, Calif., in 1997 and then transferred to San Jose State. Last year Rogers enlisted in the Naval Reserve because its base was close to State's campus. For the next three years, he must serve one weekend a month and attend a two-week summer session. In July, Rogers spent three weeks in Thailand securing beachheads during a joint operation with marine and naval forces from the U.S. and Thailand.
Rogers entered this season with no receptions for the Spartans. Used primarily as a blocker, he had run more routes between his classes, the naval office 10 minutes away and his five-year-old daughter Savannah's day-care center than he had for the Spartans' offense. But in San Jose State's second game this fall, against Stanford, Rogers caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of a 40-27 win. "Waiting for that first catch, I felt like my daughter waiting for Santa Claus to come on Christmas," says Rogers, who ended the year with just two receptions.
In May, Jesse and his wife, Tonya, will graduate with degrees in social science and liberal studies, respectively, hoping to become teachers. "It's been a tough road," Jesse says, "but I have lived my life to the fullest, and I think my kids will one day respect that."