Fullback Brad Rogers boosts Hawks' running game


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Brad Rogers didn't know if he would ever get to play football again.

When doctors discovered a heart ailment in Rogers during bowl preparation last December, the Iowa fullback was told he had about a "50-50" chance at returning to the field. He missed the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 and didn't work out at all through spring practice. But over the summer, doctors gave him clearance to begin working himself back into football shape.

"It was difficult. It was tough at the beginning," Rogers said on Tuesday. "But as the months went on, and more people started to help me out, I started to feel a lot better."

The sophomore says he now feels like he's back to "midseason form." It's probably no coincidence that the Hawkeye rushing attack looks the same way.

Rogers missed the first four games of the season. In those games, running back Marcus Coker had 87 carries for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the five games since Rogers has been back as Coker's lead blocker, those numbers have exploded.

Since Rogers' return, Coker has 124 carries for 721 yards and 8 touchdowns.

His yards per carry have jumped from 4.3 to 5.8 and his yards per game from 95 to 144. And while Coker has received praise for running harder and more decisively in his ascent to the top of the Big Ten rushing list, he credits Rogers' hard-nosed blocking.

"The offensive line and Brad Rogers have done a great job, so it's pretty hard not to get good stats when you got those guys blocking for you," Coker said. "It's one fewer [defender] I have to worry about. Because if I just follow [Rogers] into the hole, it's going to be open."

Having a quality fullback in the lineup has allowed Iowa to play more of the power-running, clock-eating brand of offense the program has typically preferred under head coach Kirk Ferentz, who said it was "nice to have a fullback in our offense." But he said Rogers brings more than fearless blocking to the team. Ferentz said his fullback brings an intangible boost with him to the field.

"Having him out there gives us another good player and another really good guy," the 13th-year coach said. "He really kind of brings a good vibe to our football team. He does a little bit more than just block. He just adds a real positive energy."

Rogers came to Iowa hoping to carry the ball. The Toledo, Ohio, native had 1,228 career rushing yards and 18 touchdowns in high school. But coaches asked him to become a full-time blocker, and Rogers said he happily accepted that role.

Ferentz said the similarly soft-spoken Rogers and Coker have become close friends. Rogers said Coker was "like my little brother."

Coker will continue to pile up yards, touchdowns, and accolades. And while Rogers admitted with a smile that "every fullback wants the ball now and then after blocking for a while," he is glad to simply pave the way for his friend.

"Whatever success Marcus gets, he shares it with me," Rogers said. "I might not get the press in the papers or whatever, but Iand Marcus know what's going on."

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