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Frank Howard?The Discoverer

Frank Howard?The Discoverer

By Sam Blackman

Some of the best discoveries are made by accidents. And for Clemson fans over 50 years ago, it was fortunate that the great Clemson football scientist Frank Howard happened to stumble across a place kicker in spring practice of 1962. 

A rising and unknown senior Rodney Rogers happened to playing with the football one day before a practice session –kicking extra points and field goals.

(Coach Howard Pictured Below)

It was one way Rogers satisfied a desire to get his hands and feet on the football, since he did not see much action as a defensive back.  Howard observed that Rogers was quite talented at splitting the uprights.  “Son,” Howard said, I want you to keep practicing them kicks,  you might be the answer to our problems this fall.  The discovery on this warm spring afternoon turned out to be one of the most rewarding in Howard’s 30 years as master of the Tigers

As the 1962 season progressed, Rodney Rogers almost became a forgotten man.  In Clemson’s first eight games, he kicked four field goals and several extra points.  In the ninth game against Maryland just a week before the South Carolina contest, Rogers kicked a  23-yard field goal against  the Terrapins with only 1:24 left in the game to give the Tigers a 17-14 Atlantic Coast Conference win.

(Rodney Rogers is pictured below.  The Mullins, SC native was a senior on the 1962 squad.)

Rogers thought this was the biggest kick of his life, until…

On November 24, against South Carolina, Rogers proved to be a hero again and the discovery Howard made proved to be a sure patented product the Tigers would be proud to market and put on the shelves with some of the greatest football games in ACC history.   

Clemson was clad in blue jerseys for the annual war with the Gamecocks.  The jerseys were four years old as they were bought for the Sugar Bowl game against LSU in 1959.  LSU, as host team said it would wear white.  Clemson’s familiar orange jerseys did not offer enough contrast to keep the television people happy, and the other Clemson jerseys were white, so Frank Howard ordered a couple of sets of dark blue jerseys for the classic. 

(Coach Frank Howard is shown dreaming about a Tiger chasing a Gamecock in this 1960’s publicity shot.)

After the Maryland game,  the Clemson players started thinking about the South Carolina game and someone remembered the blues.  A couple of the Clemson players asked Coach Howard  about wearing the blue against Carolina, and soon the whole team joined in and finally Howard said OK.

Clemson took an early 7-0 lead against the Gamecocks in the ACC classic, as Charlie Dumas scored from two yards out.  South Carolina evened the score at 7-7 as Dan Reeves completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Anderson. Reeves was a star player for the Dallas Cowboys and was later the head coach of the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.                                                                  

After the two teams swapped field goals, South Carolina took a 17-10 lead as Reeves scored on a six yard rush with 1:47 left to go in the first half.  Clemson tied the score late in the third quarter, as Jim Parker pitched to Elmo Lam for a 14-yard touchdown.

With 8:51 left to go in the game, Clemson started a 17 play, 71-yard drive that would consume 7:09 on the clock.  

Rogers kicked the winning field goal from 24 yards out and 1:42 left to go in the game, to give the Tigers the eventual winning margin of 20-17.

Clemson’s defense held the Gamecocks and the Tigers took over on downs.

“I thought the Maryland game the week before was my biggest thrill , but now that was nothing compared with the South Carolina game.  I’m from South Carolina and nothing is better than beating them in football–if you play for Clemson.”

“Before the field goal, I kept saying over and over, I have got to make this one” said Rogers.  “I have just got to make it,” he said. 

When the ball sailed through the uprights, Rogers erupted with joy.   One of his wildest dreams had come true. 

Rogers had been part of a great discovery that could never be improved or changed with the passage of time.