Bolles’ Corky Rogers named ‘Greatest Football Coach in Florida’

Bolles’ Corky Rogers named ‘Greatest Football Coach in Florida’

 

To hear Bolles football coach Corky Rogers talk, you wouldn’t think the W’s mattered much.

“I’m not in it for the record,” said the 71-year-old coach. “If you’re in it for that, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”

But oh, what a record it is.

Over the past 43 years overseeing football teams at both Robert E. Lee High School and The Bolles School, Rogers has racked up a 449-80-1 coaching record. Over 16 years at Lee, his record was 141-39-1. Over 27 years at Bolles he’s tallied 304 wins, 41 losses, as well as 10 state championships.

Rogers ranks fifth nationally in career wins among active coaches. He is the eighth coach in the history of high school football throughout the United States to reach 400 wins and was named National High School Football Coach of the Year for 2004-05 by the National High School Coaches Association.

Rogers is also a member of the National High School Hall of Fame (2015), the Florida Sports Hall of Fame (2013), the Robert E. Lee High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame (2013), the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame (2012), the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame (2005), the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) Hall of Fame (2002) and the FACA Life Membership Award winner for outstanding contribution to high school athletics and the coaching profession.

Rogers latest accolade is to land on top of a field of 28 high school, college and NFL head coaches in the “Greatest Football Coach in Florida” bracket set up by the Orlando Sentinel. The former Murray Hill resident advanced through three rounds of fan voting in the high school coaches category to land in an all-level final four with Bobby Bowden of Florida State, Steve Spurrier of the University of Florida and Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. To gain the title, Rogers won a head-to-head match-up against Spurrier and received more votes than Shula in the final round. The Sentinel announced Rogers the winner in an article printed Aug. 26.

It’s how you play the game

This winningest football coach, who holds the state record for state titles among Florida coaches with 10 and playoff victories with 79, said he almost never talks about wins and losses. “That’s not what it’s about,” said Rogers.

Instead Rogers focuses on infusing players with the character-building skills necessary to win at both football and life.

“For 95 percent of the kids, most of their playing is over when they are done playing with you,” said Rogers, noting he is always very happy to visit with former players who have families of their own and have done well in business. “Almost to the person we never talk about the state championship,” he said. “They usually say that more than anything they learned to work and work the right way through our program.”

Coaching at Bolles, which is known primarily as a rigorous academic institution, creates additional challenges for a football coach. Rogers said his players are smart – “smarter than I am” – but often do not match up in physique to the much larger players from opposing teams. To win, he tries to capitalize on his player’s individual strengths. “I tell them they don’t need to be a perfect football player, you just need to do what you’re capable of doing,” he said.

Rogers credits his coaching staff, many who have coached alongside him for years, with his success. His right-hand man, Wayne Belger, a San Jose resident who grew up in Lakawanna, played quarterback on his first football squad at Lee and returned to coach with him at Lee after graduating from Gardner-Webb College in North Carolina. When Rogers took the top job at Bolles in 1989, Belger moved with him.

“Continuity of staff is a major reason for my success,” Roger said, noting he expects his colleagues to lead his players by example. “It’s very important to the kids who are here every day, when you ask them to do their best,” he said. “You can’t kid young people. They know if you’re doing your best and working hard.”

Blessed by good coaches

For his training as a coach, Rogers credits his father, who played football at Lee High School and the University of Florida, as well as his coaches at Lee, Florida Military Academy and Georgia Tech.

“I was around good coaches. I was blessed to be on good teams that were well coached. If you are around people like that you pick up different traits,” Roger said. “I learned a lot from him (his father) about competing and how to compete the right way. You want to win, but not at all costs. You want to learn to win the right way. Many of my coaches had this same trait, but a lot of it is being lucky, too, if I’m being honest with you.”

“Tough but fair,” is how Steve Hyers, of San Marco, describes the coach he played for at Lee High School. “On the field he was regimented and you knew exactly what he wanted you to do,” he said, noting Rogers would walk up and down the practice field with his arms crossed looking like he “would kick you in the ass.” However, after practice, he was different.

“Off the field he would listen to you. He was approachable. He’d give you a listen, but his was not always the answer that you wanted,” he said, adding Rogers was instrumental in getting him a full ride to the University of Tennessee–Martin. “He was a stern guy, but if he could find an opportunity to help you, he would and he wouldn’t tell you about it,” Hyers said.

“Corky comes across honest with no BS,” said Harmon Wages of Riverside. Wages played alongside Rogers at Lee and later became an NFL running back. “He has earned the respect and trust of all around him: players, coaches, whoever.”

Rogers, who turns 72 in December, often thinks of retirement. “Every day I think about it, and when I think retirement somebody says, ‘Let’s stay one more year.’ I don’t want to let other people down. I could have gotten out seven years ago, but I’m not in it for the record,” he said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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