Never in his wildest dreams could Denim Rogers have ever imagined planting roots on two continents. Yet, his impact is being felt oceans apart, a concept that is still mind blowing for a guy who wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar coming out of high school.
“It’ still hard to believe this is happening,” Rogers said.
The former Garden City Community College track star, in conjunction with the Contemporary Development Initiative, an organization that focuses on child development, announced plans on Friday to open the Denim Athletic Club in Monrovia, Liberia later this year.
“It’s very surreal for me because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do-impact kids,” Rogers explained. “I want to be a coach, so now to be able to have this opportunity is unbelievable. I really want to be that light and inspiration to other people.”
The mission of the athletic club is to enrich the lives of disadvantaged children, providing them with the necessary physical, intellectual, emotional and social tools and knowledge to excel in life. The club will allow students to play all sports, using a meticulous coaching model to ensure that everyone is given the best possible opportunity to succeed.
“If it wasn’t for coaches, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Rogers said. “They have done so much for me, and now I want to pay it forward.”
The vision for the club was a joint venture, a collaboration of ideas between Rogers, his parents, Mark and Pam, and Habakkuk Sackor, the head of CONDI-the organization spearheading the initiative.
“They’ve always said my family has done so much for them, that they wanted to do something for us,” Rogers described.
Rogers’ mother and father are no stranger to the capital city of Liberia, a country housing more than a million people on the West African coast. Mark, who works as a manager for DOCUmation, a full-service technology solutions company, and his wife, have completed several mission trips to the area. That’s where they first met Sackor.
“When he (Sackor) learned about me, and what I was doing back home, he immediately wanted to put this together,” Rogers added. “Once the idea was put out there, I was honored.”
Rogers’ story of perseverance can’t be oversold. Growing up in Texas, he dropped out of high school following his freshman year to spend time with his father, who had just been diagnosed with colon cancer. Eventually he went back to school, running track and playing football before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his career on the gridiron.
“I tore my shoulder up pretty bad and had to have surgery,” Rogers said.
To that point, Rogers was far from a household name on the track. He never qualified for state and was a virtual unknown in college recruiting circles. But that changed following his senior year when former Broncbuster Track Coach, Doug Marshall, who’s now directing the program at Iowa Western, reached out after viewing Rogers’ online recruiting profile.
“He (Marshall) offered me a scholarship to come to Garden City,” Rogers said. “What’s funny about that is there’s a Garden City close to where I grew up, and I thought to myself: there’s no way that small town has a college. Then he informed me that the school was in Kansas, which made a heck of a lot more sense.”
Rogers rewarded Marshall’s instincts by taking sixth in the indoor heptathlon and fifth in the outdoor decathlon as a freshman. The following year, he won the National Championship in the heptathlon while obliterating the NJCAA record. In all, Rogers finished his Junior College career as a four-time All-American and still owns the Jayhawk Conference record in the heptathlon. Once he was done in Garden City, Rogers accepted a scholarship to Houston Baptist, where he was the conference champ in the heptathlon. In 2019, he qualified for the USA National Championships which also earned him a spot in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I’m really happy I get a chance to make a difference in someone’s life,” Rogers said. “I can’t thank the coaches and people along the way enough for believing in me and helping me get to where I’m at.”