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updated: 12/5/2016 7:13 PM

Geneva grad Rogers savors a stellar career at Cornell

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  • Geneva graduate Ben Rogers just completed a stellar four-year career playing football at Cornell University.

    Geneva graduate Ben Rogers just completed a stellar four-year career playing football at Cornell University.
    Photo courtesy Cornell University

  • Ben Rogers

    Ben Rogers

 
 

Recruited by six of the eight Ivy League schools, it didn't take long for Ben Rogers to make his collegiate choice back in 2011.

"I received my first (scholarship) offer from Cornell and I committed on my first official visit," said Rogers.

Five years later, Rogers realizes he made the right decision.

At Geneva, Rogers excelled as a 3-sport athlete, earning all-Upstate Eight Conference River Division football honors at wide receiver after helping lead the Vikings to a pair of state playoff berths (2010-2011) while also setting a school record in the triple jump and as a captain on the basketball team his senior year.

During his junior and senior football seasons, the Vikings compiled a record of 15-6, capturing the UEC River title in 2010 with an unblemished 6-0 mark. He caught 35 passes for 731 yards and 5 touchdowns as a senior for coach Rob Wicinski's squad.

After serving as an understudy on the scout team to All-America receiver Luke Tasker (the son of 7-time NFL All-Pro Steve Tasker) in 2012, Rogers emerged as a receiver/kick and punt return threat during the 2013 campaign at Cornell.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder caught 12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in his first season playing for the Big Red.

Rogers' numbers continued to improve the next two seasons.

After catching 15 passes for 164 yards and a TD in 2014, he hauled in a team-high 26 receptions for 439 yards and 3 TDs in 2015.

While his personal statistics grew, the team's victory total did not as Cornell posted back-to-back 1-9 campaigns in 2014 and 2015.

"It is a lot harder to win in college," admitted Rogers.

Remaining positive isn't always easy when you're losing 18 of 20 games over a 2-year span.

"It's tough to stay the course," said Rogers. "You try to stay optimistic but it's discouraging to say the least."

Scheduled to graduate last year, Rogers elected to put his classes on hold last spring and return for his final year of eligibility this fall.

"I was lucky to be in a position to come back," he said.

Rogers made the most of his final season, catching 29 passes for 449 yards and 6 TDs -- the latter both team highs.

A team captain, Rogers earned honorable mention All-Ivy League status after finishing third in yards per reception (15.5) and ninth in receiving yards per game (50). He finished his career with 1,231 receiving yards and 2,832 all-purpose yards.

More importantly, the team got back on track.

Cornell began its season with victories over Bucknell (24-16) and Yale (27-13) before knocking off 25th-ranked Colgate (39-38).

Despite losing their next 5 games -- three by 7 points or less -- the Big Red clinched their first winning road record since 1994 with a 42-40 victory at Columbia on Nov. 12.

The following week, Rogers closed out his collegiate career during a memorable Senior Day contest against Penn (7-3, 6-1).

Although Cornell dropped a 42-20 decision to the 2-time Ivy League champion Quakers, Rogers caught 5 passes for 84 yards and even got an opportunity to throw a couple passes.

Late in the first half, Rogers threw the first pass of his college career -- a 58-yard touchdown toss to Chris Walker -- as Cornell rallied to within 21-13.

"I joked with Coach (David Archer) a lot about putting in a trick play and letting me throw the football," said Rogers.

His second completion of the game, a 23-yarder to backup quarterback Jake Jatis, helped set up Cornell's final fourth-quarter touchdown.

"I can't take credit for that one," said Rogers. "Jake made an unbelievable catch in double coverage."

Rogers' Senior Day rooting section included his parents, Tom and Mary, an older sister, both sets of grandparents (one of his grandfathers is former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Vainisi -- 1983-1987), 3 uncles and other family members.

"It was very cool," said Rogers. "It was a great day to share with them. I'm so, so lucky to have had the support of my parents and family. At least one of my parents was at all 10 games this season. You have to remember, it's an 11-hour drive (Ithaca, NY)."

Set to graduate with a bachelor's degree in applied economics/finance on Dec. 17, Rogers will leave Cornell with "nothing but fond memories."

"I feel fortunate to have been able to stay healthy and perform," said Rogers. "I've made some great friends and have had great players and coaches around me. Looking back at what we accomplished as a team this season, it was cool to see it come full circle.

"We helped change the culture of the program. Their (remaining players) hard work is going to pay off."

Craig Brueske can be reached at csb4k@hotmail.com.

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