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Originally published Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Cougars QB Gary Rogers feared he was paralyzed

WSU senior quarterback Gary Rogers suffered a fracture in his spine against Portland State. "I was hoping I wasn't going to be paralyzed," he says.

Special to The Seattle Times

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PULLMAN — In the midst of one of the worst seasons in school history, a little perspective walked back onto the Washington State campus Tuesday.

Gary Rogers, who once upon a time was the starting quarterback for the Cougars, was in Bohler Gym and talking to reporters for the first time since fracturing his spine against Portland State last month.

Rogers, who will remain in a plastic neck brace for three more weeks, has been sparse on campus since the incident. He's enrolled in one credit — a practicum credit that requires rolling film for the athletic department — and took time last week to visit home.

"I'm just really thankful to be walking," Rogers said. "I'm looking at things a little different now just knowing that there is life after football."

Rogers admitted he had doubts as he lay in the rain on the Martin Stadium turf while an ambulance pulled up beside him and two teams of players knelt around him in silence.

"I was hoping I wasn't going to be paralyzed," he said.

Then Rogers realized he could move his feet. His next thought?

"Man, why is this happening to me? This is my senior year," he said.

"You know when it happened, my stomach just felt so bad for him and his family," said coach Paul Wulff. "And I still feel the same way. I don't know what to say because I don't have something that will allow him to come back and do what he wants to do."

Rogers was the longtime backup to Alex Brink and became the starter over the offseason. He started the first two games this season before Kevin Lopina replaced him against Baylor. At that point Wulff said both quarterbacks would be used in tandem.

Rogers took over for Lopina in the second quarter against Portland State when Lopina also suffered a back injury.

"That's the biggest frustration, knowing that I'm not going to play again and help the team," Rogers said. "That's difficult because I've waited so long here."

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Rogers will graduate with a degree in sports management in December. He said the injury was not career-ending, and he hopes to continue pursuing a career playing football.

"Having your health is a huge thing," he said. "It definitely makes me look at life a little different."

Notes

• When asked by a reporter over the phone if he had any thoughts about being a 42-point underdog to USC, Wulff barked, "Nope." The line has since moved from 42 to 43 points.

• Wulff said tackle Steven Ayers (concussion and neck) is medically cleared, and any holdup on his return "is on him." Wulff said he hopes to have guard Brian Danaher (shoulder) back for USC. Tackle Vaughn Lesuma is going to undergo a scan to give more clarity to his ongoing shoulder injury.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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