By Joe Scalzo
On May 28, a 22-year-old U.S. Army specialist named Adam Hamilton was on a night mission in Haji Ruf, Afghanistan when he and five other soldiers were killed after insurgents attacked their unit with an explosive device.
Five years earlier, Hamilton was a standout wide receiver on Kent Roosevelt’s undefeated football team. His quarterback that season was a tall, strong-armed senior named David Rogers.
“We were really close in high school,” said Rogers, now a senior tight end at YSU. “Adam was a great guy. Everybody liked him.
“He was a stand-up guy.”
Rogers wore No. 13 in high school. It was also Hamilton’s hockey number. With 13 unavailable his freshman year — kicker Stephen Blose had that number — Rogers first switched to 19, then 80 when he changed positions.
After Blose graduated this year, sophomore running back Adaris Bellamy asked for No. 13. Rogers shrugged and said, “That’s cool. I’ll only be here one more year.”
But after Hamilton’s death, Rogers asked YSU coach Eric Wolford if he could wear No. 13 in honor of his friend.
“I got it for him,” Rogers said.
The silent tribute was fitting for Rogers, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 255 pounds and prefers to be seen, not heard.
“I’m not a real big vocal guy,” he said.
Rogers broke into the starting lineup two years ago, playing in 11 games and starting five. His 391 snaps were the most of any tight end on the team. But Rogers bruised his kidney on a vicious hit in the finale against North Dakota State and spent several days in a Fargo hospital. He returned last fall, playing in 11 games, but admitted in the spring that it took a year before he felt 100 percent.
Now healthy and entering his final year, Rogers wants to make sure the Penguins don’t have a repeat of last year’s 3-8 season.
“We all want to go to the championship,” he said. “That’s our main goal right now.
“Having been so close last year [in so many games], we really don’t want to go back to where we were. We want to come out on top this year.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Zach Larson (Mooney) suffered a serious ankle injury in Wednesday’s practice and will likely redshirt. “It’s obviously unfortunate because he was really doing well in camp,” said YSU coach Eric Wolford. Also, sophomore guard Andrew Sinko will miss two to three weeks after getting “rolled up from behind,” Wolford said. True freshman Zach Conlan (Ursuline) was moved from the defensive line to offensive line to add depth. “That was probably the one area where we still feel like we don’t have the depth that we ideally want,” Wolford said of the line. ... True freshman WR Brandon Thomas was moved to defensive back. There are nine other receivers on the roster, including four true freshmen. ... Junior RB Jamaine Cook missed part of Thursday’s practice after spraining his ankle. He is expected to be OK and sat out as a precaution. ... Wolford said he’ll post a depth chart on Monday. He’s waiting for Saturday morning’s scrimmage before narrowing the roster to the top 60. “I kind of have an idea who the 60 are but we’ll post something official on Monday,” said Wolford. Saturday’s scrimmage is scheduled to start at 9:40 a.m. at Stambaugh Stadium. It is free and open to the public.