NASHVILLE – Chester Rogers arrived in the NFL as an underdog in 2016, an undrafted free agent from Grambling State who fought like crazy to make the 53-man roster for the Indianapolis Colts.
Rogers didn't just make the squad as a rookie – he ended up playing four seasons with the Colts, and he was productive.
But in 2020, Rogers took a step back. He spent most of last season on the practice squad with the Titans, where he got healthy, and studied film of himself, while helping the team's defense get better in practices. He also put himself in a position to seize an opportunity this season.
His perseverance has paid off. Heading into 2021, Rogers is listed as a first teamer (in a three-receiver set) alongside fellow receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones on Tennessee's depth chart to start the season. He's also listed as the team's starting returner on punts and kicks.
Needless to say, he's excited about what's ahead.
"I manifest a lot of things, so I wasn't sweating (cuts)," Rogers said on Monday. "I feel like I put in the work, and now I just have to continue to do what I did all through training camp and OTAs. My role is … I've got a role. I just have to make plays when the ball comes my way, from returns, to the slot, to wherever they've got me.
"This opportunity I have now is just as rewarding as when I came in as an undrafted free agent my rookie year. I really went out there and earned it every single day. I am not taking it for granted."
Rogers, who caught 111 passes for 1,221 yards and four touchdowns while playing in 53 games, with 22 starts, from 2016-2019 in Indianapolis, thinks he brings something different to the table as well.
The Titans kick off the regular season on Sunday against the Cardinals at Nissan Stadium.
"You have guys like A.J., who is 230 pounds, and Julio who is (6-3)," Rogers said with a smile. "I am 5-11, 180 pounds, so to be able to give something different in the inside, it's a 1-2 punch."
Rogers definitely earned his spot on the roster.
He was consistent in practices, and in three preseason games he caught three passes for 39 yards. Rogers also returned three punts for 76 yards, including one for 57 yards. He returned a kick 18 yards.
A Huntsville, Ala., native, Rogers kept the faith when his days with the Colts ended. While in Indianapolis, he worked primarily on the outside, and he caught a career-high 53 passes for 485 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2018.
After spending time with the Dolphins in August and September of 2020, Rogers joined Tennessee's practice squad on September 21 of last year. He spent 14 weeks practicing with the team, in the regular season and the playoffs.
"It was a mental year for me more than anything, rehabbing," he said. "It was just grasping the game, everything slowed down for me after a year off."
Now, he's set to play in a game for the first time since December 1, 2019, as a member of the Colts, against the Titans.
Rogers has adjusted his game, and he now considers himself a great option in the slot.
"I am so excited, man," Rogers said. "First game back in a long time for me, so I'm ready.
"And to me, I don't have to put pressure on myself. When you have a great group of guys, you just have to do your job and let the game come to you. You don't have to go out there and be something that you're not."