Coming Home *host Matt Rogers watches the exclusive screening for special guests at the Raiders facility. *Photo by Tony Gonzales
Behind the Shield host Jeanette Thompson had the opportunity to sit down with Lifetime TV's Coming Home host Matt Rogers and ask him questions about the emotional reunion between a serviceman and his family at halftime of the Raiders game on November 6, 2011.
Q:What was it like to put something together of this magnitude?
Matt Rogers: To be honest, I'm not the person who puts it together. That's our executive producer Dave Metzler, who obviously did an unbelievable job. But to be a part of it, especially with the Raiders, unbelievable. You guys are a class act organization. Amy Trask, that woman is awesome. And I was most surprised by the players' reaction. They were so humble and so cool. I played at UW [University of Washington] with Khalif Barnes, that was me 90 pounds ago, but he was cool and the players were just so receptive. They made that soldier's dream come true. He grew up watching the Oakland Raiders, so to now actually be a Raider for him, he'll remember that for the rest of his life. It was awesome.
Q: Did he talk to you at all about what he anticipated, what it would be like on the field, and the crowd reception? Did you anticipate that crowd reception?
Matt Rogers: I did not anticipate that crowd reception at all. I grew up in California on the LA Raiders and LA Rams and nine times out of 10 at halftime we get up and get hot dogs and stuff, but nobody left their seats. Everybody stayed in their seats and myself, as well as the soldier, were both ex-football players so he was tearing up – 'I haven't had that feeling in 15 years and oh my gosh, it felt so great.' And then the fans completely went ballistic. I did not know Raider fans were truly that awesome. Raider Nation, we could not have picked a better football team to do this with and I really sincerely mean that.
Q: Could you equate that crowd noise to what you experienced playing in the Rose Bowl?
Matt Rogers: It was the same. For me, I felt at home. That's kind of why I got in this business to be honest with you because when you're a player and you come out of that tunnel and everyone is going crazy, you get that feeling right in the pit of your stomach that makes you feel alive. And the only other thing that's been able to substitute that since football is when that little red light goes on, on the camera. So I'm very familiar with that feeling and to come out and to get that reception, it brought me back to my youth. I felt like it was déjà vu 12 years ago. It was awesome.
Q: How much of the experience of reuniting the families do you hold on to and cherish, not only from filming it, but being able to participate?
Matt Rogers: I cherish it wholeheartedly. My producer, Dave, he does a really good job of letting me be me. So it's kind of like, 'hey Matt, here's the format, here's what we want you to do, now go do it.' So I can take his idea and put my voice and my spin to it. So the night before when I knew we were about to do this, I couldn't sleep. It was like a football game. Twelve years ago, before we played in the Rose Bowl, that's the same feeling I felt the night before. I couldn't sleep. I kept waking up thinking about what it was going to be like. And then of course, half the time you're thinking about well what if this happens or what if that happens, and you just play all these scenarios in your head. At the end of the day, you're reuniting this family with their dad, who they miss so much and you can't screw that up, especially when you're with the Oakland Raiders and their fans. Nothing could have gone wrong and nothing did go wrong and it was absolutely perfect. You see in the reaction on the family's face, it could not have went any better.
Q: There are some guests that are here that will be getting a viewing before the rest of the nation will be able to see this. Talk to me about how special it is to show it to the first audience.
Matt Rogers: I'm excited. Without sounding too boastful, I'm extremely proud of this television show and I'm extremely proud of this episode. What the Oakland Raiders did for our show and what they're doing for our show, you can't put a price on that. I could not have picked a better NFL team to team up with for this show. The organization was unbelievable. They opened their doors to us. They literally made the TV show better and made it epic. I believe this is, hands down, our best episode. Obviously, because I'm a football guy and I was in my element, but the soldier loved Raider football so much that, you'll notice in the third scene, I walk in with him and it's, like, the Coliseum…here we are. And he starts tearing up, shaking and says, 'you don't understand, we're standing on holy ground.' It meant so much to this guy. To just be a part of that, for all that he does for our country. He's in the thick of it. He's the guy that goes down there and kicks down the doors, so to give something back to him and be a part of it is epic. It's awesome.
Q: How often do you get to come back after you've done a story to the place where the story was created?
Matt Rogers: This was my first time. We're going into our second season and this is the first time I've been able to re-visit a place where it all went down which is a total blessing because it's been my favorite surprise and my favorite episode. To be able to come back and be working with you guys to make the show even better than it already is, is a dream come true. It is a childhood dream come true, I'm working with the Oakland Raiders surprising a soldier and bringing him home safe. What is better than that?