ADRIAN, Mich. - Michael Rodgers' coach describes him as a star student who was emerging as a force on Adrian College's basketball team.
During the past year, Coach Buck Riley became accustomed to calls from professors complimenting the senior guard's class work. The coach was shocked when he received an early morning call notifying him that Mr. Rodgers was fighting for his life at Toledo Hospital after he was assaulted outside a bar on Maumee Street in Adrian on Dec. 3.
Earlier that morning, Mr. Rodgers, 26, of Columbus, was leaving L.A. Cafe with a teammate and a friend on the football team when they had a verbal confrontation with a group of men, Mr. Riley said. As the three student-athletes piled into their car, one of the assailants jumped on the hood of the vehicle. The football player opened his door and the far-outnumbered Adrian students were ambushed, the coach said.
Mr. Rodgers, who tried to defend his friends, quickly garnered the attention of the assailants who punched and kicked him in the head until they fractured his skull, his coach said.
"When they took off, Mike was laying there in a pool of blood shaking," Mr. Riley said. "That's about as horrific" as it gets.
The Adrian College student was flown by helicopter to Toledo Hospital and placed in intensive care on a respirator. In the past week, he underwent surgery to repair his skull and was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic. He checked out of the hospital yesterday to return to Columbus, where he'll continue his rehabilitation.
"One of the doctors told me he was young and healthy and they thought he would make great progress - and he did," said Mr. Riley, who is hopeful his player will be well enough to return to the team.
Mr. Rodgers transferred to Adrian from Columbus State Community College before last season. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament last season, but he'd recovered enough to emerge as an important part of this year's squad and was closing in on a spot in the starting lineup, the coach said.
"You realize how unimportant basketball is when something like this takes place," Mr. Riley said.
The university, which has sent e-mails to the community about the attack, is working to coordinate with the student's professors to help ease his eventual transition back to school, said Brad Whitehouse, the college spokesman.
In the week since the attack stunned the Adrian campus, the community has rallied behind the player by holding prayer services and starting a fund to assist in his recovery.
Detective Bob Wolverton of the Lenawee County Sheriff's Department said investigators have identified some people who are believed to have played a role in the attack. Mr. Wolverton does not believe that race was a factor in the assault, contrary to initial speculation on campus.
"The offenders and the victims both appear to be the same ethnicity," he said. "There may have been racial epithets uttered, but it doesn't appear to be a ... white-on-black issue."
As the investigation continues, the sheriff's office is hoping others will provide information.
Contact Steve Eder at:
or 419-724-6728.41.89727 -84.03627