Aug. 13, 2009
Josh Pate, UT Sports Information
Don't call Dennis Rogan a master chef just yet. But he's getting there.
Tennessee's junior defensive back loves to cook up special dishes in the kitchen - doesn't matter the entrée - although he struggled to name his favorite restaurant. Perhaps he likes his own cooking better. He also likes to serve up specialties on the field.
Rogan started every game last year in the defensive backfield, although he's still trying to defend his starting role against guys like Art Evans and Brent Vinson. Still, Rogan will see plenty of action, and a lot of that will come when he returns kicks.
He tallied 698 kickoff return yards last season to break Willie Gault's 28-year-old record, and he has a chance to fry another mark held by Gault. Currently, Rogan has 1,081 kickoff return yards with two years of eligibility remaining. Gault's mark is 1,854. Not bad for a local.
First Down: Home is where the heart is ...
Rogan is a Knoxville guy, a rarity on the squad considering Tennessee's recruiting reach. The good is he's used to the traditions and game-day atmosphere because he's lived with it. The bad is that it can be difficult to separate a new chapter in life from the old one of high school.
"It has its ups and downs," Rogan said. "A lot of problems can occur from being in your home city by becoming distracted and things like that. But you've got a big family around you with great friends, great coaches and a great staff. Of course you have a support system at home and are able to go home whenever you need to. It's all you can ask for."
Second Down: Knoxville heat ...
Knoxville is hot, and we're not talking temperature.
The pressure to perform on the gridiron is magnified at UT, and when the hometown guy is under that microscope, things can get toasty. But Rogan doesn't mind it, whether he's playing defense (nine tackles at Georgia last year, and a 38-yard interception return at Auburn), returning kicks (breaking Gault's records) or anything else (he led the team with 798 all-purpose yards last season).
"It's an honor because pressure to do well is always a good thing," Rogan said of all the hometown eyes watching No. 41. "It keeps you on your toes because you always want to do the right thing. Pressure is definitely there, but it's a good thing."
Third Down: Soaring high while grounded ...
Rogan attended Fulton High School, where he was a PrepStar All-America and voted all-state as a senior. He led the Falcons to the 2006 state championship and was voted offensive MVP. He capped his prep career with consecutive 200-yard games and at one point in his career collected 19 consecutive 100-yard games.
That was then. This is now, and Rogan is on defense. However, that doesn't mean he has forgotten his roots just a few miles north of the UT campus.
"I've been able to catch like two or three games since I've been here," Rogan said about returning to Fulton. "But this year, our off weekends match up with some of their home games. So I'll probably be able to check out like three games. Now my little brother is in high school there so I'll get to watch him."
Fourth Down: Orange-tinted steel ...
Rogan's heart is orange, but he'd take yellow, too. He grew up a fan of the Pittsburg Steelers and the rough-and-tumble NFC Central division. He said he likes the Chicago Bears OK, too.
But the Steel Curtain is his top team, hands-down.
"Pittsburgh Steelers. My dad grew up liking them and I've always been around it," Rogan said. "Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, they're my two favorite teams. They're physical, hard-hitting teams. I grew up with my dad watching football all the time, and they were his two favorite teams so I kind of caught that, too."