WOODINVILLE — Being a backup lineman didn’t satisfy Levi Rogers. But his time was finally arriving after long-snapping and mostly standing on the sideline behind a group of seniors on Massachusetts’ top-ranked team his sophomore year at Boston College High School.
Except plans changed that spring when he learned he’d be moving from his longtime home in Boston to Washington.
“I was kind of pissed,” Rogers said. “I was going into my junior year and now I didn’t know anybody. I worked my tail off my sophomore spring because I was like, ‘I want to be good.’ I was done being the sixth man. I wanted to play.”
Then he arrived at Woodinville High School.
The atmosphere, coaches and community, he said, were so much different from what he’d experienced — which is exactly what Rogers needed.
“I went out for the first day of practice and I was like, ‘This is it,’” he said.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound left tackle is now among the most recruited players in a packed Washington state senior class with offers from every Pac-12 school except for UW and Stanford. Coach Wayne Maxwell said he’s spoken to many others around the country including those from Notre Dame and Oklahoma inquiring about Woodinville’s behemoth from Beantown.
But Rogers is just another in what’s quietly become an exceptional crop of linemen out of Woodinville. The city is probably more recognized for its wineries, distilleries and the Darth Vader cardboard cutout in Maxwell’s locker room office that symbolizes his staunch “Dark Side” defenses, but Maxwell has built this program on being tough in the trenches.
Take Andre Dillard, who went from Woodinville to Washington State to a first-round draft pick last April by the Philadelphia Eagles. Some of the other left tackles Woodinville’s had over the past decade include Aaron Lavarias (who went from Idaho to the New England Patriots’ practice squad), Devon Dietrich (two-year starter at Montana), Duke Clinch (walk-on at UW), Cade Beresford (WSU) and now Rogers.
Maxwell and Mike Monan, Woodinville’s offensive line coach and a former UW offensive lineman under Don James, were in Nashville to be with Dillard when his name was called in the draft and visited him at the Eagles’ training camp.
“At Woodinville here, all we hear is Dark Side and how our defense is so good,” Monan said. “It’s a rallying cry for our guys, our offensive linemen, to stand out. I want our group to go and play their hearts out and they have really risen to the challenge.”
But what sets Rogers apart from the Falcons’ past linemen is how thick he is, especially in his lower body.
“He came in with a little more meanness,” Monan said. “I don’t know what they fed him in Massachusetts, but he is really aggressive, and he wants to be leading the pack in our pancake counts.”
Maybe he doesn’t move as well as Dillard or Lavarias did, but most colleges have so far recruited Rogers as a guard, who could also do some long-snapping.
“It’s one thing to strike up and get in a guy, but to now do that and physically manhandle you with his power base and his mentality he has to just finish — he’s got it all,” Maxwell said. “He’s got the physicality and the mentality together and that makes him a very dominant run blocker.”
Offensive line runs in Rogers’ family. His brothers, Luke and Sam, are both linemen at Wheaton College in Illinois and their father, Daniel Rogers, was a lineman at the University of Georgia. Levi’s older sister, Jessica, recently graduated with a master’s in speech pathology from Baylor and his younger sister, Hope, is a freshman at Woodinville.
Levi was born in Georgia, but in 2008 his family landed in Boston. His father was hired as the lead pastor at Christ the King Dorchester there until he resigned last year.
He moved with his mother, Michelle, who is a mental health therapist and former USC football trainer, back to Washington near her parents and where she hadn’t lived since graduating from Ingraham High School. Levi’s parents are separated, but his father also moved to Washington and is Bellevue Christian School’s director of discipleship.
Levi eventually came to see their move as a chance for a fresh start.
“We lived in a rough neighborhood in Boston, with a lot of crime and gang violence and stuff like that,” Levi said. “My school was good and I liked it there, but I had mixed emotions to be honest.”
He found out that football helps all that. Fellow senior offensive lineman Nathan Metz was the first to tour Rogers around Woodinville’s campus. And Rogers quickly learned some differences between Washington football and football in Massachusetts.
“Everything was definitely a big hit for me,” he said. “In Massachusetts there would be games you could literally hear the other sideline as they are giving their calls it was so quiet. There wasn’t the passion for it like there is here, where there are thousands of people showing up for games on Friday night.”