By Phil Batson
While a student at Clemson, Jacky Jackson would often bring his buddies home with him on weekends to Edgefield, SC. They were a close-knit group on Clemson’s football team in the mid-1960s.
Two of Jackson’s best friends were quarterback Jimmy Addison and wide receiver Phil Rogers. A trip to Edgefield usually meant a side visit to the Anderson family household.
The Anderson family was Clemson through and through. They had four sons who attended Clemson: Joe, Ben, Gregg and Jeff. “And they were all fine gentlemen too,” IPTAY’s George Bennett recalled.
As any youngster would have been, Ben Anderson was in awe of the Clemson football players who visited his home.
“When I first met Phil, I was about six-years-old,” remembered Ben, who is now Clemson University’s General Counsel. “He made such an impression on me, that when I was in high school, I wanted to wear his number, 25. When I got to play at Clemson (1970-72), I wore no. 25 again.
“The reason I wore that number was because of the impression Phil had made on me. I didn’t play as well as Phil, but I took great pride in wearing his number.”
This story is indicative of the significant impact Rogers had on his family and friends during his 27 years of life. He died from a brain tumor on Feb. 8, 1974 at Emory Hospital.
“I will never forget the day he died,” said Rogers’ sister, Almeda Jacks. “My brother, sister and I were driving away from the hospital and to each other we wondered why God had taken the best of the four of us.”
Jacky Jackson and his wife, Billie, have ensured that Rogers’ memory will live on as they have contributed to an endowment to IPTAY in honor of Phil Rogers. The Jacksons also have created an endowment with Clemson’s Foundation.
“It was a family decision,” said Jackson. “It was important for us to thank Clemson through the Foundation for all it had done for me. We also wanted to thank IPTAY by honoring Phil for what it had done for all of us.”
Having grown up “in the sticks”, Jackson was recruited by several big name schools, including Georgia and Tennessee. He took his first plane trip to Raleigh, NC while being recruited by North Carolina State.
Frank Howard was among those recruiting Jackson. “A lot of those schools were having coaching changes,” Jackson said. “Coach Howard had been at Clemson a long time. It was a stable situation. And I was blue jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, so Clemson suited me.”
Rogers arrived at Clemson from Clinton, SC as a highly regarded, multi-sport high school athlete. Jackson and Rogers were roommates and best friends at Clemson. Rogers’ impact on Jackson was immediate, profound and still lasting today.
“He was the best person I ever knew.”
Active with campus groups, the two were often called on to speak at FCA functions. “Phil was a good musician and could play piano. He was not comfortable talking, so I would do the talking. He was ten times the Christian I was, so it would have actually been better if he had done the talking. The problem was I did not have any talent.”
Jackson said Rogers had all kinds of different talents.
“He had perfect balance. We would be in our room studying and he would read a book while balancing his chair on two legs. It was amazing. He was always balancing something like a pencil or broom on his nose.”
Rogers’ athleticism transcended football. “He could play golf too. The first time I ever played, Phil gave me a lesson for 18 holes.”
Addison calls Rogers the “most graceful” athlete he ever saw.
“Nobody ever ran as smoothly. Nobody ever cut as sharply. And he made it look effortless. He was an extraordinarily graceful person.”
Known by his teammates as “Wiggie”, Rogers was appreciated by the former Clemson quarterback.
“If anybody ever owes Wiggie a debt of gratitude, it is I. He made me look so good at times.”
Rogers made Clemson a better team too. During Rogers’ playing years (’65-’67), the Tigers won outright or shared the conference championship all three years.
“More importantly,” said Addison, “Phil was a man of grace. He was always one of us, yet he was always apart from us in a certain way.
“He always led a much better life, one that we would always strive for. He never made anyone angry. He was a friend to everyone.”
Jacks said her brother was “on a pedestal from day one” in their family, but “he was that good of a person.”
Faith played a big part of his life, according to Jacks. “God was his no. 1 priority. He grew up in a Christian home with my mom and dad. You have heard that if you pray together, you stay together. Well, we did.”
Jacks’ parents, Phillip Wiggins Rogers Sr., and Almeda Rogers, still reside in Clinton. Her brother and sister, Virginia McMurray and Alex Rogers, do too. McMurray is a ’71 Clemson graduate.
Jacks has 15 first cousins, eight of whom went to Clemson.
After his faith, Jacks said it might have been difficult to rank her brothers’ priorities. “It was a toss-up between family and football. I think family might have edged out, but football was right there.
Family and friends gathered recently for a luncheon at the Madren Center to recognize the Jacksons’ contributions and to remember Rogers.
Among those attending was University President Jim Barker and his wife, Marcia. Barker said, “By this you can see how ties made at Clemson do not leave you. They stay with you your whole life.
“It’s special that some things that happened 30-35 years ago helped shape lives. It’s also special to honor someone like this in a way that will help someone else get an education.”
Dr. Randy Smith was a teammate of Rogers. “I was in med school at Duke when Jimmy (Addison) and Randy (Mahaffey) called me with the news that Phil had died. I still remember that it was a very sad day for me.”
Another teammate, Edgar McGee, recalled one of Rogers’ greatest performances. Against North Carolina in 1965, Rogers caught 11 passes. That mark was recently tied by current Tiger receiver Rod Gardner and still is no. 1 in Clemson’s record book.
“We had almost come back against North Carolina,” said McGee. “Wiggie had scored twice. We lost the game when an official called Wiggie out of bounds on a two-point catch. They later apologized to Coach Howard about it. But it was about as good a comeback as we’ve had.”
Jacky Jackson retired recently from the pharmaceutical business. He had been President of the North American division of the Pharmacia and Upjohn corporation.
“Flying to Europe 20 times a year became overwhelming,” Jackson said.
After “living just about everywhere in the U.S.”, the Jacksons now reside in Edisto, SC, where he “dabbles” in the land business.
They are building a home on Lake Hartwell.
The Jacksons, who have known each other since first grade, have two children. Their daughter, Mandy Jackson Hackney and her husband, Stewart, live in Anderson, SC, where she teaches second grade.
Their son, Will Jackson lives in Clemson.
Jackson said he still thinks about his old roommate.
“I remember at his funeral that the music was all music that Phil had played and recorded.”
Jacks said she recalls the eulogy at his funeral.
“The pastor said, ‘Phil had run his race and he had won.’ “
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