Rogers then became only the second gay footballer in Britain to come out in public. Justin Fashanu, his solitary predecessor, hanged himself in 1998 in Shoreditch, just a short walk from where Rogers now lives.
"I was just fearful. I was very fearful how my team-mates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I'd still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me – when we were in the dressing room or the bus?"
It would be incredibly powerful if a gay footballer could face down that hate and abuse – just as black sportsmen like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali stood up to racism in America.
"Sure," Rogers says. "I've thought about that. I might be strong enough but I don't know if that's really what I want. I'd just want to be a footballer. I wouldn't want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys – how's that?'
"If you're playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.' And if you have a bad game it'll be: 'Aw, that gay dude … he's struggling because he's gay.' Fuck it. I don't want to mess with that."
Rogers' epiphany to return to the game came when he spoke to a group of about 500 kids at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in Portland last month.
"I seriously felt like a coward," he tells USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview about his return. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"
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