INDIANAPOLIS — The name "Chester Rogers" might not have been on a lot of NFL teams' radars at the start of the 2016 season, but by the end of the year, Rogers proved he can hang with the big boys.
An undrafted college free agent signee out of Grambling State, Rogers quickly ascended up the Colts' crowded depth chart at wide receiver last offseason, and, after a particularly strong training camp and preseason, earned himself a spot on the team's Week 1 roster.
He said his rookie season that followed — in which he played 14 games with two starts and became the team's primary punt returner, as well — made him learn exactly how important it was to focus on the details of his job.
"You know, that was important for me," Rogers said the day after the Colts' Week 17, season-ending victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. "The coaches preached on that — details — and just making great decisions. I feel like from where punt return stands and playing receiver, I think that's where I progressed a lot."
Though Rogers went out and earned his spot on the initial 53-man roster, he found early on that it would be important for him to take advantage of any opportunity thrown his way. When receivers like Donte Moncrief or Phillip Dorsett were nicked up, the team relied upon Rogers to step into those spots and produce.
Rogers did just that, catching 19 passes for 273 yards (14.4 yards per catch), and when regular returner Quan Bray went down with a season-ending injury, Rogers took over punt return duties, showing gradual improvement throughout the season.
In all, he returned 13 punts for 119 yards (for an average of 9.2 yards per return), and had two separate 30-yard returns on the year.
"You've just got to take advantage of the opportunities," Rogers said. "You know, we hate injuries — I hate it for it to be one of my guys — but when I get the opportunity, I've just got to take advantage of it. And that's what I tried to do."
Rogers was also able to soak in plenty of knowledge from the plethora of offensive veterans around him, particularly a guy like No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who led the league with 1,448 receiving yards in 2016.
"The mindset, and the knowledge of the game," Rogers said. "Of course he can get open — I feel like no one can guard T.Y. — but it's up here with it (pointing to his head). He's so smart, and I feel like, you know, that's what I can learn from him."
Rogers said he plans to use the first few weeks of his first NFL offseason "getting my body right." Getting "bigger, stronger" will only help him as he tries to make an even bigger jump in 2017.
"I went through a full season, I know what I have to work on, so I have a lot of room for improvement," Rogers said. "And I'm nowhere near where I'm supposed to be, so I'm just going to attack it. I'm just going to get better."