Former NFL executive, college coach Pepper Rodgers dies at 88

Former Washington Redskins executive and college football coach Pepper Rodgers has died. He was 88.

Georgia Tech — where Rodgers played and coached — said he died Thursday in Reston, Va. His son, Rick Rodgers, told the Los Angeles Times he died at Reston Hospital Center after he sustaining arterial bleeding before he had a stroke and a heart attack.

Rodgers was a quarterback and kicker for the Yellow Jackets from 1951 to 1953 and helped Georgia Tech win the 1952 national championship.

He was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 12th round of the 1954 NFL Draft, but joined the U.S. Air Force instead. He was a Air Force pilot for five years.

Rodgers completed 52.9 percent of his throws for 1,041 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 36 games as Yellow Jackets quarterback.

He threw a touchdown pass, kicked a field goal and made three extra points in Georgia Tech’s 1953 Sugar Bowl win over Ole Miss, which clinched the Yellow Jackets’ national title.

The Yellow Jackets were 32-2-2, won two Southeastern Conference titles and won three major bowl games in Rodgers’ three seasons on campus.

“I am devastated to learn of the passing of Pepper Rodgers,” Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury said. “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.”

Rodgers began his career as a college coach as an assistant at Air Force in 1958. He served in the same role at Florida from 1960 through 1964 and UCLA from 1965 through 1966.

He became a head coach for the first time in 1967 at Kansas and then head coach at UCLA in 1971. He was hired as Georgia Tech’s coach in 1974.

The six-time Coach of the Year had a 73-65-3 regular-season record and an 0-2 bowl record in 13 seasons.

He went on to coach the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League and the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League. Rodgers served as Redskins vice president of football operations from 2001 to 2004.

“I was terribly saddened to hear the news about the passing of Pepper Rodgers,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder said. “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.”

Rodgers is survived by his wife, Livingston, sons Rick and Kyle, and daughters Terri and Kelly.

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