Pepper Rodgers

Franklin Cullen "Pepper" Rodgers (October 8, 1931 – May 14, 2020) was an American football player and coach. As a college football player, he led the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to an undefeated season in 1952 and later became their head coach. He also coached collegiately for the Kansas Jayhawks and UCLA Bruins before leading professional teams in Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States Football League (USFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL).

Pepper Rodgers
Biographical details
Born(1931-10-08)October 8, 1931
Atlanta, Georgia
DiedMay 14, 2020(2020-05-14) (aged 88)
Reston, Virginia
Playing career
1951–1953Georgia Tech
Position(s)Quarterback, kicker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1958–1959Air Force (assistant)
1960–1964Florida (assistant)
1965–1966UCLA (assistant)
1967–1970Kansas
1971–1973UCLA
1974–1979Georgia Tech
1984–1985Memphis Showboats
1995Memphis Mad Dogs
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
2001–2004Washington Redskins
(VP of football operations)
Head coaching record
Overall73–65–3 (college)
19–19 (USFL)
9–9 (CFL)
Bowls0–2
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
1 Big Eight (1968)

Rodgers was a quarterback and placekicker for Georgia Tech. After the Yellow Jackets won the Sugar Bowl and earned a share of the national championship in 1952, they again won the bowl game the following year, when he was named the contest's most valuable player (MVP). Rodgers began coaching as an assistant for the Air Force Falcons and later the Florida Gators and UCLA. He became a head coach with Kansas in 1967, and later returned to UCLA and then Georgia Tech as their leader. He compiled a career college coaching record of 73–65–3.[1]

Moving to the professional ranks, Rodgers coached two seasons in the 1980s with the Memphis Showboats in the USFL and one season for the CFL's Memphis Mad Dogs. In the 2000s, he served as vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins in the National Football League (NFL) before retiring.

Playing careerEdit

Rodgers was born in Atlanta,[2] where he became a three-sport star in football, basketball and baseball at Brown High School. His football team won a state championship in 1949.[1]

Rodgers played college football at Georgia Tech under head coach Bobby Dodd, where he was a backup quarterback and placekicker as a sophomore in 1951.[3] As a junior in 1952, he led the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated 12–0 season and share of the national championship after throwing for a touchdown and kicking a field goal in a 24–7 win in the 1953 Sugar Bowl over Mississippi.[1] In the following Sugar Bowl, Rodgers threw for three touchdowns against West Virginia and was named the game's MVP.[1] In 2018, he was named to the inaugural class of the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.[4]

Coaching careerEdit

Rodgers was selected in the 12th round of the 1954 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts,[1] but remained at Georgia Tech for a year, earning a BS degree in industrial management while also serving as a student assistant on Dodd's staff.[5] In 1955 he joined the U.S. Air Force,[5] where he was a pilot for five years.[1]

While with the Air Force, Rodgers was an assistant coach for their Falcons football team. He was later an assistant for Florida and UCLA before landing his first head coaching position with Kansas in 1967.[1] In his second year with the Jayhawks in 1968, he led the team to a share of the Big Eight Conference title,[6][7] the program's most recent conference championship.[8] They played in the Orange Bowl in Miami, but lost 15–14 to Penn State.[9]

Rodgers returned to UCLA as its head coach in 1971.[2] Competing in the Pac-8 Conference, he installed the wishbone offense and with junior college transfer quarterback Mark Harmon in 1972, the Bruins upset top-ranked and two-time defending champion Nebraska in the season opener, snapping the Huskers' 32-game unbeaten streak.[10][11] UCLA finished 8–3 and ranked No. 15 in the final AP rankings.[12] In 1973 they were 9–2 and ended ranked No. 12.[13] After the season, he returned to Georgia Tech as its head coach, compiling a 34–31–2 record in his six seasons.[1]

Rodgers was also the head coach of the USFL's Memphis Showboats from 1984 to 1985 and for the CFL's Memphis Mad Dogs in 1995.[14] With the Showboats, he coached future Pro Football Hall of Fame player Reggie White.[15]

Executive careerEdit

At 69, Rodgers was considered for the Washington Redskins' head coaching position before Norv Turner's eventual firing during the 2000 season.[16][17] He was instead appointed the team's vice president of football operations, which he served from 2001 to 2004.[17][18][19]

Writing careerEdit

Rodgers wrote Fourth and Long Gone, a novel published in 1985 that is a bawdy roman à clef of his experiences as a college football coach and recruiter.[1] He also wrote Pepper!: The autobiography of an unconventional coach with Al Thomy.[20]

Later yearsEdit

Rodgers later lived in Reston, Virginia,[21] where he died on May 14, 2020, at the age of 88.[22]

Head coaching recordEdit

CollegeEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Kansas Jayhawks (Big Eight Conference) (1967–1970)
1967 Kansas 5–5 5–2 T–2nd
1968 Kansas 9–2 6–1 T–1st L Orange 6 7
1969 Kansas 1–9 0–7 8th
1970 Kansas 5–6 2–5 T–6th
Kansas: 20–22 13–15
UCLA Bruins (Pacific-8 Conference) (1971–1973)
1971 UCLA 2–7–1 1–4–1 8th
1972 UCLA 8–3 5–2 2nd T–17 15
1973 UCLA 9–2 6–1 2nd 9 12
UCLA: 19–12–1 12–7–1
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (NCAA Division I / I-A independent) (1974–1979)
1974 Georgia Tech 6–5
1975 Georgia Tech 7–4
1976 Georgia Tech 4–6–1
1977 Georgia Tech 6–5
1978 Georgia Tech 7–5 L Peach
1979 Georgia Tech 4–6–1
Georgia Tech: 34–31–2
Total: 73–65–3

Source:[23]

ProfessionalEdit

USFLEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
MEM 1984 7 11 0 .389 4th in Southern Div. Did not qualify
MEM 1985 11 7 0 .611 3rd in Eastern Conf. 1 1 .500 Lost in Semifinals
Total 18 18 0 .500 1 1 .500

Source:[24]

CFLEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
MEM 1995 9 9 0 .500 4th in South Division Did not qualify
Total 9 9 0 .500 0 0

Source:[24]

See alsoEdit

PublicationsEdit

  • Rodgers, Pepper; Thomy, Al (1976). Pepper!: The autobiography of an unconventional coach. Doubleday. ISBN 9780385116671.
  • Rodgers, Pepper (1984). Fourth and Long Gone. Peachtree Pub. ISBN 9780931948619.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rosenberg, I.J. (May 9, 2015). "Whatever happened to … Pepper Rodgers". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Bolch, Ben (May 14, 2020). "Pepper Rodgers, whose long coaching career included UCLA stint, dies at 88". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Georgia Tech cops 17 to 14 thriller from Baylor Bears". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. January 2, 1952. p. 5.
  4. ^ "Allstate Sugar Bowl Announces Inaugural Hall of Fame Class".
  5. ^ a b Engel, Lou (December 16, 1966). "UCLA Aide Pepper Rodgers, Once a Quarterback For Dodd at G-Tech". KUSports.com. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  6. ^ Ferguson, Lew (December 14, 1968). "Kansas coach makes football a fun game". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. p. 7.
  7. ^ "Pepper Rodgers hired as UCLA grid coach". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 8, 1971. p. 15.
  8. ^ Haskin, Kevin (July 23, 2009). "Column: Huskers right pick in North". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2020. The year Kansas fans could finally quit referencing Pepper Rodgers, Bobby Douglass and John Zook while reminiscing about 1968, the last time a conference trophy in football was hoisted atop Oread. (Division ties, like the one KU achieved in 2007, don’t really count if left out of the conference title game.)
  9. ^ DeSimone, Bonnie (January 3, 1999). "SPURRIER WINS AS COACH WHERE HE WON AS QB". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  10. ^ Jenkins, Dan (September 18, 1972). "Young Harmon makes his mark". Sports Illustrated. p. 32.
  11. ^ "Bruins upend Cornhuskers on Herrera's field goal, 20-17". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. September 10, 1972. p. 3C.
  12. ^ Nissenson, Herschel (January 3, 1973). "It's official: Trojans No. 1 grid team". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. p. 48.
  13. ^ Nissenson, Herschel (January 3, 1974). "Notre Dame No. 1 in final AP grid poll". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. p. 32.
  14. ^ Shapiro, Leonard (December 5, 2000). "Robiskie 'in Mix' Of Candidates". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  15. ^ Crabtree, Curtis (May 14, 2020). "Former Washington VP of Football Operations Pepper Rodgers dies at 88". Pro Football Talk. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  16. ^ McKenna, Dave (November 19, 2010). "The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder". Washington City Paper. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  17. ^ a b Maske, Mark (December 1, 2004). "This is familiar territory fo ..." The Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2020. They contemplated giving it to longtime college coach Pepper Rodgers, but were talked out of it and instead gave Rodgers a front-office position.
  18. ^ Maske, Mark (December 5, 2000). "Redskins Change Coaches, Hoping to Still Make Playoffs". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2020. In an overall shake-up of the organization, the Redskins also named longtime college coach Pepper Rodgers their vice president of football operations and fired special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel, giving that job to tight ends coach Pat Flaherty.
  19. ^ Newberry, Paul (May 15, 2020). "Colorful player, coach Pepper Rodgers dies at age 88". The Washington Post. AP. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  20. ^ Lipsyte, Robert (December 5, 1976). "Sports". the New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2020. Iconography with a twist is served up in PEPPER (Doubleday, $7.95) by Pepper Rodgers and Al Thorny an often comical autobiography of the shrewdly zany Georgia Tech football coach, and in JOE NAMATH AND THE OTHER GUYS (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $7.95).
  21. ^ Suguira, Ken (October 16, 2015). "Did Georgia Tech and Pepper Rodgers keep Steve Spurrier's career alive?". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  22. ^ Bailey, Clay (May 14, 2020). "Former Memphis Showboats coach Pepper Rodgers has died". The Daily Memphian. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  23. ^ "Pepper Rodgers". Sports Reference. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Pepper Rodgers". Stats Crew. Retrieved May 15, 2020.