The first time I bumped into Matt Rogers was at a Hallmark Channel event, on the grounds of the Rose Bowl headquarters in Pasadena. For him, that meant split attention: He's part of Hallmark (as a regular "Home and Family" guest), but he's also part of Rose Bowl history; he re-visited the place's mini-museum.
That's part of a busy life that has included "American Idol" and -- beginning Friday (Oct. 16) -- chatting with prospectors. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
By most standards,
Matt Rogers had quickly achieved life's goals.
He was a starter for
a Rose Bowl champion; he was a finalist on “American Idol.” He
beat Drew Brees and serenaded Simon Cowell. What more could one want?
One thing, he
insists: “I knew when I was 7 years old that I wanted to host a TV
Forget about being a
football hero or a rock god; staring into a camera, it seems, tops
staring at a blitzing linebacker and/or Cowell. “When that red
light goes on, nothing can compare.” Now he:
-- Hosts “Gold
Rush: The Dirt.” That's the preview hour for “Gold Rush,” the
show (about real-life prospectors) that is Discovery Channel's top
ratings-getter. “I've liked it from the start,” he said.
-- Shows up often on
“Home and Family” (10 a.m. weekdays on Hallmark, repeating at
noon), where, as a father of three, he talks about dad things.
-- Has previously
hosted one show on CBS (“There Goes the Neighborhood”) and
several on cable, including “Coming Home,” “Beat the Chef”
and “Really Big Things.”
Such things – not
football or singing – were his prime goal, Rogers insists. By the
time he was 7, he was reciting “Saturday Night Live” sketches
into a tape recorder. By 5th grade, he'd hatched a scheme
to get sourballs in quantity and sell them individually, raising
enough for a $400 video camera.
intervened, catching him by surprise. “I was this short, fat, slow
kid .... I always loved sports, but I had no confidence I could play
A coach injected the
confidence. Rogers was a starting lineman in high school (West
Covina, Cal.) and a junior college All-American; he played his junior
year at Iowa and senior year at Washington.
That's where things
peaked with a 34-24 win over Purdue in the 2001 Rose Bowl. Years
later, Rogers met Brees at a fundraiser. “I showed him my Rose Bowl
ring and you could see that competitive look in his eyes.” Brees
has a Super Bowl ring and six pro records, but this was the thing
Three years later,
Rogers was singing on “Idol” as a singer, now slimmed from his
football days. (He was listed at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds at Washington.
At times, he said, he hit 330; now he's a mere 260.)
He finished 11th
... then endeared himself to viewers by singing his farewell song,
“Amazed,” as a sort of love song to his most scathing critic,
The music has
continued with occasional gigs, an EP on his Web site
and occasionally on the TV shows. He's done Christmas tunes on “Home
and Family” and did the theme song to “Coming Home,” a show
about returning soldiers.
Often, he's a host
now and says he's fascinated by the real-life prospectors, who
started in Alaska and are now in Canada. “I got to go up to the
Klondike to see them at work.”
That was during the
summer mining season. Now Rogers and the miners fly to the Discovery
studios near Washington, D.C., to discuss the episodes. “These guys
are amazing,” Rogers said. “You back them in a corner and they
come out swinging.”
They kind of fit his
“HWPO” (hard work pays off) motto. That's helped an ordinary
student – a 1.96 grade point average, he says – conquer TV, Brees
and (almost) Cowell.
-- “Gold Rush: The
Dirt,” 8 p.m. Fridays, Discovery, starting Oct. 16; opener reruns
at 1 a.m.
-- “Gold Rush,”
9 p.m. Fridays, starting Oct. 16. Two-hour opener reruns at 11 p.m.,
then 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. Sunday, 10 p.m. Tuesday (Oct. 20) and 6
p.m. Oct. 23.
-- Also, a “Gold
Rush” rerun marathon goes from 9 a.m. Thursday to the debuts at 8