HISTORY WITH HAYES: Rogers broke the barrier

Phil Rogers made a bold move in 1975.

Phil Rogers made a bold move in 1975.

Under the urging of Virginia Tech head football coach Jimmy Sharpe, the senior shifted from running back to quarterback.

This was no minor personnel switch, however.

In 1973, Rogers had become the first player in Tech history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

In ’74, the former Gate City High School star gained 663 yards on the ground and reached the end zone seven times.

But Sharpe felt moving his star player under center to direct the wishbone offense would be a good decision.

“Coach asked me to try it,” Rogers said. “I said, ‘Oh well, if that’s what you want.’ It worked out pretty well. I wish I would have had another year doing it.”

Rogers, the first black QB in program history, responded by leading Tech to an 8-3 record. The biggest victory came on Oct. 4, when Rogers led the Hokies to a 23-17 victory at Auburn.

In front of a crowd estimated at 45,000, Rogers completed 5 of 9 passes for 68 yards and hooked up with Steve Galloway on a scoring strike. He also rushed for 128 yards and a score.

“It was a big game on our schedule, plus going there and playing them at home,” Rogers said. “I remember Roscoe Coles had an 80-some-yard run. It was a good game. It was a good game offensively and defensively.”

Rogers also established a school record in a game against VMI that season, scoring on an 82-yard jaunt. It was the longest touchdown run from scrimmage by a Tech player in the history of Lane Stadium.

That Tech team had a real local feel. The backfield in ’75 included Rogers, fullback Paul Adams from Castlewood and halfback George Heath from Bristol.

Rogers would be drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and played for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts for one season.

His four seasons in Blacksburg remain a big part of his life.

“It was nice,” Rogers said.

Rogers was recently elected to Virginia Tech’s athletic hall of fame, the latest accomplishment for the guy who led Gate City to the 1970 VHSL Group AA championship. The induction ceremony is set for Oct. 7.

“It’s a big honor,” Rogers said. “I kindly knew. I had some friends of mine pushing for it, so it wasn’t totally unexpected. I was really happy when I found out.”

Now, for a look at historical high school football moments that occurred this week in history:

September 7, 1956

Billy Compton scored two touchdowns, leading Richlands to a 12-0 victory over Pocahontas. … Behind three touchdowns from Junior Campbell, Saltville cruised to a 33-0 win over Hurley. … James Earl Penley’s 42-yard touchdown run highlighted Tennessee High’s 13-7 triumph over Greeneville.

September 8, 1961

Marion posted a 12-0 win over Pulaski. Curt Spitzer and Don Wassum supplied the touchdowns in the victory. … Appalachia overwhelmed Norton, 27-13, thanks two touchdowns from Butch Fritz. Appy finished with 289 rushing yards. … Jim Mitchem, Jackie Mitchem and Robert Rice scored touchdowns for Haysi in the Tigers’ 21-0 throttling of John Battle.

September 9, 1977

Mike Hughes gained 178 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns as Virginia High vanquished Abingdon, 28-14. … Steve Addison’s 6-yard touchdown run and the ensuing 2-point conversion run by Wayne Carner was all Richlands needed in an 8-6 victory over Big Creek (W.Va.). … The duo of Danny Meade (13 carries, 126 yards, two touchdowns) and Timmy McFall (13 carries, 118 yards) carried Clintwood past Coeburn, 35-6.

September 11, 1981

Sullivan East quarterback Jon White threw three touchdown passes, two to Darrell McCoy, but it wasn’t enough as the Patriots suffered a 24-20 setback to Sullivan South. … Touchdown runs by David Davis and Richard Justus keyed Hurley’s 12-7 win over Ervinton. … Saltville suffered a 13-10 loss to Fries. A touchdown run by Tim Haynes and field goal by Eugene Call provided the lone points for the Shakers.

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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