A (not) tall Texas tale: Rodgers brothers will write another chapter

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley has told this story before, but it's a good story and good stories sometimes get better in the retelling.

In January of 2007, Beavers offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf was chatting with a junior college coach who had some game film of a diminutive defensive back. Langsdorf looked at the film and saw a small guy who played hard. And fast. Very fast.

There was less than a month before national signing day, but Langsdorf was intrigued enough to take the 1,800-mile trip down down to Lamar Consolidated High School in Richmond, Tex., which is a suburb of Houston, to see the player for himself.

He wanted to know why James Rodgers had no -- zero -- offers from FBS schools.

Explains Riley, "So James' coach, Lydell Wilson, didn't know why we were recruiting him. He asked Danny, 'Are you guys just after his brother?'"

"And Danny goes, 'He's got a brother?'"

Jacquizz Rodgers was in the midst of a career in which he'd rush for 8,245 yards, score 136 touchdowns -- breaking the Texas record -- and would earn Parade All-American honors.

Riley beams after finishing. He loves the story of how the Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James, ended up playing for the Beavers.

The story, as everyone knows, doesn't end there.

For one, there's the chapter where the Rodgers brothers account for nearly half of the Beavers total yards in 2008. And what about when Jacquizz sliced and diced top-ranked USC's dominant defense for 186 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Or when James went 86 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return in a victory over California?

Last season, James, a sophomore, accumulated 1,833 all-purpose yards, third most in program history. Meanwhile, Jacquizz rushed for 1,253 yards and became the first freshman to be named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.

The "brothers" angle to the story is great fun, too. Just 14 months separate them, and that closeness in age made them incredibly competitive growing up.

"We couldn't be on different teams because we would always break out into a fight because one of us was losing," James said.

That reminded Jacquizz of a story: YMCA basketball.

"My team beat his team and he wanted to fight me after the game," he said.

Explained James, "We were all friends but they were all on the same team [against James]. I thought that was unfair. We didn't win. I was upset. I was just picking a fight."

Yes, these two can finish each other's sentences.

What about the differences between rural Oregon and the Houston area?

Well, first there's the weather. Rain, rain, rain.

And then there's food.

"We don't get too much Texas barbecue up here," James said.

"And no fried food! They don't season their food enough up here," Jacquizz continued.

The Rodgers are an easy-going pair. They live together. They hang out together. They mostly like the same things. James is a little more serious and talkative. Jacquizz is quieter but likes to screw around. Jacquizz knows his video games. James isn't a fan.

And they are both, as it is often noted, vertically challenged. Both are listed at 5-foot-7, though James has been known to describe Jacquizz as "5-foot-6" when Jacquizz isn't around.

Riley gets asked about Jacquizz' stature a lot, so he has created a canned but accurate answer that applies to both brothers: "He's not small. He's just short. He's very strong."

Both Rodgers are thickly muscled. Jacquizz tips the scales at 191, James at 185. Two bowling balls come to mind.

Both also win praise for their toughness.

"He gets in there and messes around with linebackers," California linebacker Mike Mohamed said of James. "He's real tough. He's not afraid to get down in there and put his head into it."

While Jacquizz has received most of the publicity, James appears to be on the cusp of breaking out. A fly sweep specialist, slot receiver and return man his first two years, he figures to get a lot more touches this fall as the first option in the passing game.

"James Rodgers has taken major steps as a receiver," Riley said. "He's about the hardest worker I've ever been around in my life."

James also is the faster of the two. His fastest 100 meters in high school was 10.33.

As for Jacquizz, what could he do for an encore after being tapped the conference player of the year?

"I've got room for improvement," he said. "I didn't have a long run last year. All of them were tough yards, so I think I can do way better than last year. Plus, I was out three games. My goals are high."

Both had off-season shoulder surgery. Neither has seemed the worse for wear during preseason practices, and Riley said that he expects to run Jacquizz "25 to 30 times a game," which means he could even exceed the 259 carries he had in just 11 games last year, the most by a wide margin in the conference.

The Rodgers brothers have shared a lot, including growing up in a tough section of town. Their father went to prison in 2004 on drug charges. They were raised by their mother, Tasha Williams, and uncles Rodney Williams and Michael Lewis, who plays safety for the San Francisco 49ers.

They stayed out of trouble, overcame their circumstances and became hometown heroes when they helped transform Lamar Consolidated into a Texas power.

Now they are sharing flowering fame.

"It's kind of strange," James said. "We don't let the media get to us, but it is different -- going from being low and not many people knowing about us to everybody knowing who we are. It's kind of different. Every time we go some
where, it's, 'Hey, James!' or 'Hey, 'Quizz!'"

Each has set personal goals for himself this year, but they share one more thing, and this is something that Riley and the rest of the Beavers surely hope is a tale to be told in the future.

Said James, "The goal is to win."