Corky Rogers’ influence, impact was far greater than his record

Winningest high school football coach in Florida dies at 76

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Corky Rogers had more victories and more state championships than just about anyone who ever coached high school football.

When remembering Rogers, the former Bolles and Lee football coach who died late Wednesday night after battling health problems for years, the impact that he made across the community casts a far bigger shadow than anything else.

Rogers coached a future baseball hall of famer (Chipper Jones). He coached nine players who went on to be drafted in the NFL, including a first-round pick (Hayden Hurst) and a second-round pick (LeRoy Butler). Sure, Rogers’ success is what made him an icon in the sports world. But his mentoring and teaching and influence was far greater than what he accomplished on the field.

He was feared on the field and respected off of it.

“He had that fire demeanor on the field. But he would talk to you and treat you like you knew him your whole life,” said Kevin Sullivan, a friend and the athletic director at Andrew Jackson High School.

To overshadow 465 wins (seventh all-time in high school history) and 10 state championships (first in state history), Rogers’ reach had to be massive.

Raines coach Deran Wiley became one of Rogers’ biggest rivals over the years, turning in one epic game after another. The Vikings beat Bolles 26-21 on Oct. 21, 2011, ending a state-record 19-year, 91-game district winning streak.

That game ignited a rivalry that lasted through Rogers’ final season in 2016. It also launched a friendship between Wiley and Rogers.

Wiley was never shy about his respect for the Bolles coach, saying without it, the Vikings would have never been able to achieve the heights that they did. Raines won back-to-back state titles in 2017-18. Even when the Vikings didn’t beat Bolles, and quite a few times they didn’t, Wiley said that Rogers encouraged him.

Dating back to his time at Lee, Rogers was 17-12-1 against the Vikings.

“He told me, ‘keep doing what you’re doing,’” Wiley said. "That gave me all the confidence in the world.

"Coach Rogers, indirectly, has been the most influential person in my success. He made you be great. It was get on his level or else. When you saw him, you saw a major figure. When you saw him, you saw a man. When you saw him, you saw excellence. The success we had at Raines the last few years was a direct effect of going against him, starting in 2011. To be the best, you have to play the best. To play the best, you have to raise your game to beat the best.”

Tributes poured in across social media, from former players, college coaches, even high school athletes who never played for or against Rogers.

Former Bolles fullback William McCray, a 1996 Bulldogs graduate and city player of the year that season, said that playing for Rogers “were some of the best years of my life.”

“This one hurts! I can’t say enough about the impact he’s had on me. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to play for Corky. I have so much love and respect for the man. An exceptional coach, mentor, and friend,” McCray said.

“Just an all-around great man. He truly brought out the best in his players. He taught me the value of hard work, preparation and giving your all in everything you do. He’s not the guy that would just talk the talk, he showed by example. I remember times in the weight room when he’d get down on the bench and rep 275 like it’s nothing. I can hear now saying ‘you gotta EXPLODE son.’ So many good memories. I can truly say those were some of the best years of my life.”

Trinity Christian coach Verlon Dorminey, the area’s longest-tenured coach who is entering his 30th season, said that Rogers’ impact on him began before Rogers even knew it.

When Dorminey learned that Rogers’ health was getting worse, he said that he emailed Rogers his thanks.

“I told him that I appreciated him. As a young coach when I first started as an assistant and he was at Lee, he would let me come and watch practice. We were horrible back then,” said Dorminey, who is second in area history with seven state titles.

“We went to the Wing-T [offense] and I’d just go to practice and watch. A lot of things he did we incorporated into our offense. He was always gracious and kind and humble. Now, when he stepped on the other side of that field, he could beat my eyes out. I just learned a ton from him.”

Last August, Bolles dedicated the front part of the sports complex as Corky Rogers Plaza with a monument erected in his honor. On Thursday, they laid flowers in front of it in his honor.

“Not only did he win championships which are great, but there are hundreds of young men that he coached about strong integrity, doing the right thing, how do you care of yourselves,” said Tyler Hodges, head of school for Bolles.

He said he was thankful for the life and legacy of a man whose name will forever be a part of this program.

“He wasn’t going to run out and go somewhere else. He loved it here and we loved him," Hodges said.

The school does plan to do something to honor Rogers, but administrators are waiting on his family to share their wishes first.

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