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The Tragic Death of Don Rogers

On June 27th, 1986, Cleveland Browns safety Don Rogers tragically passed away from a cocaine overdose. The 23-year-old Rogers died the night before his wedding.  He was the 18th overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft from UCLA. The former Bruin’s sudden death came as a shock to the Cleveland Browns and their fans.

Rogers official cause of death was a heart attack brought on by the overdose of cocaine. His death was just 8 days after the cocaine overdose death of Len Bias, he was the first overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft of the Boston Celtics. The death of both Len Bias and Don Rogers were both shocking and awful. Both were exceptional athletes who had their whole lives in front of them. Roger’s teammates were devasted by the loss of a friend and an excellent teammate.

Rogers had promising talent; his death occurred just one month prior to the start of training camp for the 1986 Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Bernie Kosar was quoted comparing Don Rogers to Ronnie Lott. Yes, he was that good of a safety. Kosar said the “it was a both a personal and professional tragedy”.  In 1986 the Cleveland Browns won the AFC Central Division for the second consecutive season. They went on to win a thrilling double overtime divisional home playoff game against the New York Jets. The following week was the 1987 AFC Championship game.

The 1987 AFC Championship Game against John Elway and the Denver Broncos lives in infamy for Cleveland Browns fans. John Elway led a late fourth quarter drive to tie the game with :34 seconds left to play. Denver went on to win the game and the AFC Championship in overtime 23-20. Many experts and Browns fans felt if Don Rogers was there in Cleveland Browns secondary that comeback drive wouldn’t have happened. But we will never know that for sure. What we do know for sure is that the abuse of drugs can lead to tragic consequences. Consequences that can still be felt 38 years later.


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