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The Pontiac Collective Impact Partnership is a coordinating body that brings partners together to ensure community members have the access, opportunities, and resources needed to thrive.

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Pontiac Proud: Sam Rogers—Former NFL Linebacker

“When you really push yourself to achieve a goal, that’s just the beginning.”

Sam Rogers is 100% Pontiac, born and bred. He credits growing up in the city for helping him develop a strong work ethic, a resilient spirit, and a focus on personal excellence. Nothing illustrates the robust impact these experiences had on his character better than the fact that he was drafted into the NFL — achievement that less than 0.03% of high school football players can ever claim. And this is even more impressive when you consider that Sam always saw it as a means to an end.

“We spent a lot of time throwing the ball around each others’ backyards when I was growing up, so it started out as something fun to do,” he recalls. “Then there was the Pontiac Athletic League, which started teaching us more of the skills, the techniques, the strategy. But I don’t think I thought that it was more than just something fun to do until I had the opportunity to go to a Detroit Lions practice. That inspired me.”

Sam’s focus both in and out of the classroom resulted in both academic and athletic college scholarships after he graduated from Pontiac Central High School. He attended the University of Colorado before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1994. “I had a friend who was drafted in the first round, so it really seemed like it might be possible,” he remembers. “It pushed me to work harder, to do more. I played every day, practiced every day. With football, and probably other sports, too, the biggest challenge often is yourself: Making commitments to yourself, and following through on them. No one else is watching, it’s just you. So having that ethic, taking care of business, that was essential to my success. I pushed myself harder and harder, and then I was drafted.”

After an 11-year career with the Bills, San Diego Chargers, and Atlanta Falcons, Sam retired to pursue other goals. “Honestly, my primary focus is humanity — I love people — and football was the means to the end,” he explains. “I wanted to build community, so I started quite literally: Building houses. We built about 70 houses before the crash in 2008, and I developed a whole new set of skills. Then I learned about green building technology and realized that this could be a path toward building not only affordable housing, but housing that is more affordable to maintain. So that’s been my next chapter.”

Sam is excited to help develop and grow awareness of green technology such as aircrete, and to possibly bring green manufacturing to Pontiac. “It’s true that I don’t think this city is as vibrant as it once was, but I believe there’s real opportunity there,” he notes. “We need to literally build Pontiac back up, so that people want to stay in Pontiac. I’m excited about being part of that.”

In addition to his work in green construction, Sam regularly mentors and works with local youth, hoping to inspire them in the same ways he was. “I tell these kids that they really can create the lives they want to live, but it’s going to require a lot of work,” he advises. “There is a 100% chance of failure if you rest on your laurels and don’t do anything. So work hard now — read, pay attention, create your own path. Stay true to who you are and when you commit to yourself, follow through on it.”