JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Corky Rogers, the most successful high school football coach in the history of the state of Florida, is stepping down due to health concerns.
Rogers led Bolles to 10 state championships and another six state runner-up finishes, but his health increasingly became a challenge. His 466 wins are the most ever in Florida and the fifth most in the nation.
"I just don’t feel like I have the ability to do what I need to do for my classes and it is becoming more difficult each day," Roger said.
Rogers had heart surgery in 2013 and last year, he fell ill while on a vacation in North Carolina. He coached the entire 2016 season, despite needing frequent procedures to drain fluid from his mid-section. Rogers still led the Bulldogs to and undefeated regular season and an appearance in the state championship game, where they lost to Cocoa High School, 31-17.
"I want to coach. It’s what I know. It’s what I love doing," Rogers said Tuesday at the Bolles School. "It’s just gotten to be that in my classes, I’m sitting in a chair. I’m not coaching, I’m not teaching. It’s not fair to the kids. I don’t want to short them in any way."
Rogers has led the Bolles program since 1989, following 17 years at his alma mater, Robert E. Lee, where he coached the Generals to playoff appearances in 10 straight seasons. An impressive number of Rogers-coached athletes went on to play at the collegiate level, including 156 at Bolles. He has also had 11 former players in the NFL.
“I am most proud of being a head coach for more than 44 years and I never had a losing season. If you have a good, solid program, you are going to have a successful team," Rogers said. "As hard as these kids work, when they finish this program they should feel like they can do anything in life. The work ethic and character they develop here last a lifetime."
Rogers recommended his longtime assistant Wayne Belger to take over as the new head coach, but a source at the school said that the school was yet to make a decision on the future. Belger's coaching history with Rogers dates back to their time together at Lee.
Discipline, work ethic and preparation were hallmarks of Rogers' coaching approach. He was always quick to deflect praise to his players and assistant coaches, a trend that continued Tuesday at his farewell press conference.
"We’ve got so many good guys around us. One of the things that I would like people to understand is I’ve had such good people working with me all these years, a lot of the success that we’ve had over the years is because of these guys," Roger said. "That’s why I think the program can go on."
Tuesday, current and former players were on hand at the McGehee Auditorium on the school's San Jose Blvd. campus to hear from Rogers, who said that he will stay on for a few more weeks before officially stepping down. He said that he wants to be remembered as a coach who was as dedicated as any to preparing his players for games.
"I know I got out-coached in games sometimes," Rogers said. "I don't think we ever got outworked."
Several members of the Bolles faculty were on hand Tuesday as well.
"The entire Bolles community supports, respects and loves Corky because he is a man of character who always believes in doing things the right way," said Dave Farace, Bolles president and head of school."He has established a program that is unsurpassed at other schools."