Will Rogers wakes early on Sunday mornings, dresses and has breakfast before heading out to church with his father, mother, brother and sister. After service, Rogers spends the early afternoon watching game film. Around 1:45, he arrives at the Brandon High School weight room to get a weightlifting session in before he and the team’s wide receivers traditional 3 p.m. throwing session. Once they are done, he rushes home to shower before heading back out to pick up a few of his teammates and classmates to head back to church for the Sunday night small group sessions. While it may seem a bit much to some, it is a day which highlights who Brandon’s standout quarterback is.
Rogers grew up immersed in football. Before he could talk, his father began teaching him the game.
“As a little bitty boy he would sit in my lap and I would tell him this is this route and this is what the quarterback is looking at,” saidWyatt Rogers, Will’s father and Brandon’s offensive coordinator.
At age 5, Will began following his father, then head coach of the Winston Academy football team, to practice. There the young football mind begin to analyze offensive schemes. As a third grader, he would join his father in the Brandon High pressbox on Friday nights. There the young football scholar would don a headset to jot down plays and listen to his father’s exchange with the sideline. The pair would then spend Saturdays analyzing the routes of players in college football games. He played his first game in fourth grade on the Winston Academy peewee team and spent the next three years leading the group as of course, the quarterback.
Rogers moved to Brandon as a seventh grader and immediately became an integral part of his middle school football team. Again under center, he began developing a relationship with then Brandon High standout quarterback Gardner Minshew. He joined Minshew and his father in the film room listening carefully and gleaning every little bit he could about the best way to be a leader and manage the expectations of a quarterback. He snapped balls, caught passes and mimicked throws to pick up the intricate details of the Brandon offense. Minshew, a regular at the Rogers’ home, noticed his dedication and took the inquisitive young quarterback under his wing. Their friendship blossomed into a sibling like relationship. So much so that when the weather report for this Friday’s Class 6A semifinal matchup showed a 90% chance of rain, Will Rogers pulled out his cell phone to seek advice from his friend who is now the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I asked him what’s the best way to keep my hands dry. If there is anything special they do in Jacksonville to keep (his) dry or the balls dry,” said Rogers. “We texted back and forth and he told me we’d better win.”
Minshew is a sort of legend at Brandon. He lead the Bulldogs to a Class 6A state championship as a junior and a 6A South Championship as a senior, eventually playing at Washington State before being selected by the Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. Minshew left big shoes for those to follow, but not so big for Rogers.
Much like Minshew, Rogers took over the starting quarterback position as a sophomore. That season threw for 18 touchdowns and 2,476 yards. The following year, he completed 23 touchdown passes and 3,009 yards leading his team to the semifinals. Now a senior, the Dandy Dozen has accumulated 37 touchdowns and 3,327 yards. The state leader in passing yards has earned numerous local awards and was selected for the coveted Mississippi/Alabama Allstar game. Friday, he will again lead his team into a 6A semifinal game at Petal.
“Offensively, he is like another coach on the field. It has gotten to the point where he has advanced to where he is checking maybe 40percent of our plays at the line of scrimmage,” said Wyatt. “He has free rein that if he sees something that he likes to take it and we don’t second guess it. It’s not always right, but he’s been right more than he’s been wrong.”
The father-son duo that make Brandon’s offense go is a combination that could be tricky, but the mutual respect between the two solidifies their player/coach relationship.
“He’s coaching me just like he’s coaching any of the wide receivers or any of the other offensive players. If he needs to chew me out, he’s going to do and not think twice about it,” said Will. “But I respect that because I want to be coached and I want to get better.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound 3 star recruit is without question already a talented football player, however there is much more to his story. The Mississippi State commit will graduate in December. When he arrives in Starkville, the honor roll student will already have completed at least one college course.
He is deeply spiritual which drives and motivates everything that young Christian does.
“I feel that the Good Lord is blessing me to be in the position that I’m in,” Will said. “I’m not in this position for my wants or my desires, but I’m in this position to serve him and expand his Kingdom.”
An active member of Brandon First United Methodist Church, he can usually be found helping out in the youth department. He has taught children’s Sunday School classes and even dressed up as Santa last year.
He has just completed what is likely his final season as an assistant coach for the Brandon Warhawks PeeWee football team. Much like his father, the young Coach Rogers is the team’s play caller. With the help of head coach Steven Wallace along with Rogers and his teammates, the 9 and 10 year olds modified Air Raid offense took them to the semi-finals before being eliminated last week.
The young leader is also a regular at Brandon’s elementary schools. The first two weeks of this school year, Rogers and his teammates were up early at Rouse Elementary helping students from cars in the car rider line and helping them find their new classrooms. He has spent time reading to students at Brandon and Stonebridge Elementary. Students of the Month winners at Rouse, awarded lunch with members of the football team, were excited to see their favorite player in attendance.
Two years ago, Wyatt Rogers was surprised to find his son dressed up in his tux, bow tie and cufflinks. He was headed to a prom held for special needs students at the school. The popular guest spent the night dancing with the girls and entertaining groups of adoring fans.
He does all this with the same level of comfort he exudes between the lines on Friday nights. To Wyatt Rogers, it is the measure of the man that his son is growing to be.
“It’s the little things like that that I would never tell a kid to do that I think shows his character,” Wyatt said.
Although, much of the recognition he has received has been due to his work on the field, his work in the community has not been overlooked by those who know him best.
“There are all kinds of kids that show up on Friday night and they will bring their parents because Will coaches them at Pee Wee or Will sees them at church and they’ve gotten to know him,” said Wyatt. “He is hard to find once he gets off the field because he is out with 10 or 12 little kids every game who want to take a picture with him. It really goes to show what kind of role model he’s been.”
If Rogers has to take the field in the rain, he will carry with him some of Minshew’s experienced tips for keeping his hands and the footballs dry. More importantly and despite the weather, he will have his personal faith, his community’s support and his father’s guidance.