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Honoring Buck: Rogers will be recognized Friday

February 8, 2017

JEFFERSON — For Steve Rogers, it’s always been about the kids.

For 50 years, Rogers, affectionately known as “Buck,” has been on numerous fields, courses and courts guiding the youth of Jefferson down a well-taught path. And this Friday night he will be recognized, but not for just those 50 years, but for 100 seasons of coaching JHS athletes.

In a halftime ceremony of the Jefferson-Whitewater girls’ basketball game, Rogers will be recognized for the 100 seasons that have seen him coach football, golf, boys’ and girls’ basketball, and boys’ and girls’ tennis.

“It doesn’t seem like work,” said Rogers. “You couldn’t ask for a better school system or a better town to coach in.”

Rogers grew up in and graduated from Fort Atkinson. But he quickly migrated a few miles north to rival Jefferson, taking a job as physical education teacher at Jefferson Middle School in 1966.

“I got my teaching job in Jefferson, so right away that’s where I wanted to coach,” said Rogers. “At first it was a big rivalry, because we both were in the Badger Conference, so there was a little more incentive to beat Fort.”

The 100-season run began during the fall of 1967 when Rogers was the head freshman football coach.

“A lot of times I played quarterback with no equipment on and ran plays, and kids would tackle me. I can’t picture doing that now,” said the 74-year-old.

When Rogers began coaching, there were no female sports. Title IX changed all that in 1972, and he has been more than willing to coach females throughout his tenure.

“That’s been one of the great things that’s happened in education, in my opinion — girls allowed to participate in sports. Whereas before, that wasn’t an option. What a tremendous outlet for them,” Rogers said.

While Rogers has coached more boys seasons (55) than girls (45), his longest runs have come coaching females.

He is the all-time winningest girls’ basketball coach in JHS history, going 265-90 from 1982-99. During that time Rogers led the Lady Eagles to the WIAA Sectional finals three times, but each time came up just short of reaching the State Tournament.

When he retired, the program still had not reached State.

That all changed in 2005 when the Eagles not only reached State, but won the WIAA Division 2 championship. And Rogers was fortunate enough to be part of that staff.

“I approached Dena Smith (the head coach at that time) about returning to the staff as an assistant, and she said, ‘Yes.’ I learned a lot from Dena Smith, and it was a pleasure to be part of her teams. I’m glad I did it.”

His longest coaching run — which will continue in the fall — is girls’ tennis, a 23-year span that began in 1994.

“I like girls’ tennis because you start early even before school begins,” said Rogers.

Rogers would be the first to say he hasn’t done it alone. Numerous assistant coaches, like Paul Ganser, Jeff Endl and Lenny Funk, not only have sat on the same bench, but also have become close friends.

“We’ve carried that friendship beyond the actual coaching part. Along with the kids, that’s been a highlight of the 50 years I’ve been doing this,” Rogers said.

But also right beside Steve Rogers has been his wife, Pam.

“There’s no way I could have done this without her,” he said. “Never once did she ever say I should get out of it.”

The Rogers’ raised two children, Greg and Leslie, and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Rogers taught physical education at Jefferson Middle School for 34 years before retiring in 2010. But, he still is called on to be a substitute.

“(Pam and I) were down in Florida, but they’re all old people down there,” Rogers quipped. “I wanted to get back to seeing the kids in the hallways and things like that.”

And Jefferson is fortunate he is back.

“I never got into coaching to set records or get recognition, I just wanted to do it because I enjoyed doing it and still enjoy doing it. Otherwise, I’d get out,” Rogers said.

Steve Rogers’ 100-season breakdown appears in Scoreboard on B3