Longtime college coach and former Georgia Tech QB Pepper Rodgers dies at 88

Pepper Rodgers (R) coached at Kansas, UCLA and Georgia Tech. (AP Photo/GB)

Georgia Tech announced Friday that former player and coach Pepper Rodgers had died. He was 88.

Rodgers coached at Georgia Tech from 1974-79. He played quarterback for the Yellow Jackets and was their star as GT won the 1952 national title.

“I am devastated to learn of the passing of Pepper Rodgers,” Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. “He was a Georgia Tech legend, having won a national championship as an outstanding player and going on to compile four winning seasons in six years as head coach. On a personal note, he was the coach that recruited me to Georgia Tech, and I am eternally grateful to him for bringing me here. If it weren’t for Pepper, I would have never had the opportunity to live out my dreams as a Tech student, football player, alumnus and, now, athletics director. He has also been a mentor and friend throughout my professional career and I will miss him greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Livingston, his family and his many, many friends. We have lost a great Tech man.”

Rodgers died at his home in Reston, Virginia, on Thursday.

Georgia Tech went 32-2-2 with Rodgers as the QB and kicker. He scored 12 total points through a TD pass, a field goal and three extra points in the team’s win over Ole Miss in the 1953 Sugar Bowl to cap a 12-0 season in 1952 for the Yellow Jackets. 

He was drafted in the 1954 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts but instead became a pilot in the Air Force. After five years in the Air Force, Rodgers was an assistant coach with the Air Force Academy.

He got his first head coaching job at Kansas in 1967 and spent four years with the Jayhawks. Kansas’ best season in his tenure came in 1968 when it went 9-2 and lost in the Orange Bowl.

Rodgers then spent three seasons at UCLA where the Bruins won a combined 17 games in his last two seasons with the team. He went back to his alma mater in 1974 and was 34-31-2 with the Yellow Jackets. Overall, he was 73-65-3 as a head coach. 

After his college football coaching career was over, Rodgers coached in the USFL and served as an executive for the Washington Redskins. He was the team’s vice president of football operations from 2001-04.

"I was terribly saddened to hear the news about the passing of Pepper Rodgers,” Washington owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Anyone who knew Pepper knew what a genuinely good person he was. He was a kind and gentle man who helped guide me as a young owner in the NFL. He had an incredible knowledge of the game and was beloved by everyone in the organization. Tanya and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to [wife Janet Lake Livingston] and the entire Rodgers family during this time.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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