Thus, Rogers was the man. He's not the straight-ahead bruiser that Campbell is, nor does he have the speed of a Tony Dorsett. "If he had everything those guys have, he'd have to be outlawed," says Phillips. "Earl's a short, low, tackle-breaking runner. George is a tall guy who runs hard. He'll break a tackle, but he'll dodge a few people Earl wouldn't bother about. This kid will make a move, but he'll do it without stopping the way Dorsett or Billy Sims does. You can't compare him with Earl. Earl has led the league all three of his years; this kid is still a college kid. It would be like comparing me with Amos Alonzo Stagg or somebody."
Still, Rogers has enormous strength for a running back, largely because he has a passion for weightlifting. "In college I could bench-press 380 pounds, and I didn't think I could get any stronger," he says. But in a month, under the tutelage of Russell Paternostro, the Saints' strength coach, Rogers has upped his bench press to 420 pounds, which is about as much as a 280-pound tackle can handle. He has added a full inch to his measurements up and down his body, and put on six pounds.
The Saints endured a few anxious weeks after the draft when Nelson Skalbania, raider of American football flesh, made a serious pass at Rogers for his Montreal Alouettes. But Rogers finally settled for a $1 million, five-year deal with New Orleans.
"Why would a great running back want to play in some league where they speak French and kick on third down, anyway?" asks Phillips. Then again, why would a great running back want to play for the NFL's worst team?
"And they talk a lot of French in New Orleans, too," says Rogers.
Nevertheless, he flew in to sign on June 17, and when he stood up in front of the cameras he snatched Phillips' golf cap, adjusted the band and put it on his own head. The cap's inscription was fitting: HELP BUM HELP THE HANDICAPPED.
"Here, let me have that back," said Phillips. "I just want to make a mark on the back of the cap to make sure your head don't get any bigger."
Bigheadedness isn't likely to afflict Rogers, but his shyness and aversion to the press may cause him some trouble. His childhood was even more difficult than that of the stereotyped dirt poor black athlete out of a broken home—like Earl Campbell, for instance. Rogers' father abandoned the family and was eventually convicted of murder and sent to prison. George, his mother and two brothers and two sisters were continually on the move. When Rogers became famous last year, he never expected the story to be told and retold by the national media, but then he's more than a trifle naive about life in the big time.
"I hate attention, you know," he says. "I hate having reporters all around asking me questions while my teammates are off by themselves. I hate autographs. The best thing about being in the NFL is getting to meet some of the people I've always heard about, like Joe Greene and Earl. I always idolized Earl Campbell. People ask me do I want to be like him. I say I want to be better. Might as well say it, right?"
He isn't pleased with his first week in camp. There was the terrible humiliation on the very first day, when he was the only player who didn't finish the required 1�-mile run. "We did it at 5 p.m., and I hadn't eaten lunch or dinner," he says. "I was really embarrassed." The coaches pooh-poohed Rogers' failure, but the New Orleans writers, who aren't particularly happy with Rogers, made much of it. One of them imagined Phillips saying, "Well, if it's third and three-quarters of a mile, we'll go to someone else." Rogers didn't think that was funny.