College Football Biloxi High-School, 1992 Vanderbilt University (QB/WR) - 1992-1995

My Story

There have been many times in my life when I had to change course or pivot; it’s an essential part of life that is both difficult and necessary. I’ll share one story that is specific to an experience in college that made me realize “getting checked” was a part of life and is often out of your control. The question becomes – how will you respond?
As a kid, I was always a hard worker – no matter what the activity. From playing outside with friends, schoolwork, and sports – I enjoyed giving 100% effort. Part of this was just how I’m wired, part of it is having two older brothers and being competitive from the time I can remember, and part of it is was growing up in an environment where absolutely nothing was handed to me. As I became a teenager, I realized the benefits of working hard and enjoyed the benefits and reputation that came along with giving a great effort at all times. My senior year in high school, I had quite a few offers to play college football and settled on Vanderbilt because of its reputation as the “Harvard of the South.” After arriving on campus, I got to work – in the classroom and on the field. It was refreshing to be around so many people that were very gifted – in the classroom and on the football field. Fast forward to my final year of college – we get a new coaching staff – and the change is both a little scary and exciting. By this time, I had moved from being an option quarterback to a wide-out and the new coach was installing an offense more balanced than before (he wanted to throw a lot more than we had in the past). Needless to say, me and my fellow wide-outs were excited! We go through spring practice with the new coach and things are great and it really seems as if the offensive change will be good for the program.
The summer heading into my senior year, we start “two-a-days” (two practice each day) and everyone is excited for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, some things happened that changed the team in a negative way. A personal change for me was – for the first time, I was injured and would miss a few games to start the season. I pulled a quad muscle and what I thought would be a week off – turned into 4-6 weeks. After I was healed; however, it was obvious the new coach was going in a different direction with the team. He decided – not through merit – that he wanted to play younger players – some that were not nearly as talented as some of the upper-classmen that normally were at the top of the depth chart. The coach took a very awkward approach to making the changes – almost combative if someone inquired about the change. I set up a meeting with the head coach (literally requested time from his secretary) to talk with the coach (something that was encouraged in the past). Bottom line was – he wanted to do things his way, no matter how disruptive they were to the team. It was a rough season for the team and the coach’s attitude permeated the coaching staff as the assistants had to execute what the head coach demanded. I had a little poetic justice, by returning that season to catch a game-winning touchdown and show that I was willing to work hard, even when I felt I was done wrong. I also received the Chancellor’s award for being the athlete with the highest GPA on the football team. I was determined to finish my senior season on a high note, despite the circumstances and how amazingly frustrating the experience had become for me and many others (some players transferred and finished their eligibility elsewhere). Looking back on the situation, there were some things I could have done differently. While the outcome wouldn’t have changed, I probably would have been a more pleasant teammate to a few players (some of the younger players were drinking the Kool-Aid served by the new coach and some of us “old heads” didn’t appreciate it). That situation taught me a few things:
1) Hard work doesn’t always get you to the goal. It takes a bit more than that…you will need some help from somewhere at some point…and you may even need some luck!
2) One person not appreciating your skill set (on the field or in the work-place) doesn’t define your value.
3) Getting knocked down is a part of life that truly makes you better. If you allow yourself to self-examine and objectively analyze the situation, you can move forward with better perspective and a bit more wisdom. Failure has some benefit and can be good for you….it just tastes nasty!
I could list several things I learned from that disastrous senior year. I received an apology from a few coaches/administrators about how my situation was handled. I must say – the apologies helped ease the sting, but the lesson learned was ultimately a good one that still applies to this day. It’s truly not about what happens to you, it’s about how you deal with the situation and become a better you, no matter the field of human endeavor. So…how will you respond?

My Advice

You will have to fight to maintain academics as the priority when you are a collegiate athlete. Playing any sport in college, while balancing studies, is not for the weak at heart. You must do what you need to do to get a degree - even if you have professional talent. Remember why you are there, not why the coaches have you there, because those are two different reasons. Ask for help when you need it - there is always more help available than you may think - for almost anything. Enjoy your college years - they will be the best time of your life. Adulting is not nearly as fun as being a kid in college - don't rush!


Kenny, you have some really wise comments in your story. I'm so thankful for you to share and to be transparent. I can understand how you were feeling as you talked injury, changing positions and poor coaching decisions. Life isn't easy at all and as a collegiate athlete, or at any level, there are so many different pressures that make it really tough on a young man or young woman in sports. I remember you being a great athlete and runner and it sure does stink when all of a sudden, coaches change your position and there's an injury to top it off so you can't use your strengths like you wanted to. I feel sad thinking about how you were feeling over 20 or so years ago but I also am excited because a similar story might be happening right now with another young athlete and your story will show them a few things: 1) that they aren't the first to experience this sort of situation, 2) to not just lay down as you continued to work hard as well as tried to talk to the coach about your situation, and 3) you learned a lot during this time about hard work, knowing who you were as a person and allowed the situation to give you wisdom about life even though as you said, 'it tastes nasty!' I wish I could've been a coach when you were dealing with this so I could have encouraged you to know that even though you may not have liked what was going on, I would have told you that you are giving your best! You were always a good guy, worked hard in your sports, made a great choice in communicating to the Head Coach, were amazing in your studies (Highest GPA among football players) and you never gave up! I learned much later in life that the goal as an athlete isn't necessarily to be the starter, have the best game and then go on to win but I learned that the goal should just be, to do one's best! In order to do one's best, I then realized I needed to continue to be in shape, lift weights, listen to coaches, run to the whistle, watch film and other football related things, but I also realized that there was much more! In order to give my very best, I realized that I needed to give my best not just in football but outside of football. Those areas included my relationships with others, my education, peer pressure related and family to name a few. I wasn't doing good Kenny in these areas while in College and I could never feel complete satisfaction even if I had a great game and if we won! Kenny, I just wanted you to know that I believe you did the very best you could with the things that you knew back then. Yeah, we can look back like we're doing in order to encourage others, but, I wanted you to know that I believe you did your best! I'll ask you this final questions. If you think you did your best with what you knew at the time in College while playing football, can you hold your head up high today? I think there are so many of us that want the shiny on the outside but really what we desire is to shine on the inside and Kenny as I write this and see you running in your picture, what comes to mind right now is that I believe you are shining on the inside like the GOLD I see on the outside of your uniform and that's really what is important! And if I'm wrong about shining on the inside Kenny, then let's talk. The game isn't over yet for either one of us! -Gary Rogers

Spread the word

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *