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Will Rogers looks to turn adversity into happy ending at Washington

“The worst thing that happens to you might be the best thing for you if you don’t let it get the best of you.”

Will Rogers, the famous American writer and humorist, wrote those words of wisdom back in the early 20th century. Will Rogers, the record-setting college football quarterback and Brandon native, would do well to take the message to heart a century or so later.

Rick Cleveland

Rogers, the quarterback, is overdue for something good to happen. These last 13 months have been trying times, to put it mildly. It’s been more or less like a prolonged quarterback sack.

Put yourself in young Rogers’ shoes back in early December 2022. He had thrown for more yards and touchdowns than any Mississippi quarterback ever at the highest level of college football. No quarterback in Southeastern Conference history had completed more passes.

Then, on Dec. 12, 2022, Mike Leach, Rogers’ head coach at Mississippi State, died. 

“It’s been tough,” Rogers said not even three weeks later, after helping State defeat Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Tampa. “Coach and I were so close and to lose a coach like that, a friend like that it hurt … it will continue to hurt.”


Wyatt Rogers, Will’s father and a Brandon high school football coach, says Zach Arnett, Leach’s successor, promised his son the plan was to keep Leach’s Air Raid offense.

“(Arnett) flat-out lied to us, sitting in our den,” Wyatt Rogers said. “He said they would be crazy to change offenses after all the success we had had…”

But change the offense was exactly what Arnett did, scrapping the Air Raid for a pro-style offense that rarely clicked. And then, in the sixth game of the season, against Western Michigan, Rogers suffered a shoulder injury that would sideline him for the next four games.

“Nobody is ever promised a life without scars, but that was tough,” Wyatt Rogers said.

State finished 5-7, losing to Ole Miss 17-7 in Will Rogers’ last game game as a Bulldog. Immediately, he entered the NCAA transfer portal.

Will’s adventure was only beginning. After being courted by several schools, Rogers settled on Washington, where Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer recruited him to be the successor to Michael Penix Jr. Penix had led Washington to the national championship game. Rogers really liked DeBoer, enjoyed his visit to Seattle and looked forward to quarterbacking the Huskies in their first season in the Big Ten. “They throw the ball around a lot like we did my first three years at State,” Rogers said.

But then DeBoer took the Alabama job, and Rogers was back at square one. Not knowing who would take DeBoer’s place and whether the new coach would bring in his own quarterback, Rogers re-entered the portal on Jan. 12. Alabama, Miami, South Carolina, Western Kentucky and even national champion Michigan all became possibilities. And there were others, Iowa and Northwestern among them.

“The clock was ticking fast,” Wyatt Rogers said. “If Will was going to go through spring training at his new school, he had to make a move.”

The father and son met with Jedd Fisch, the coach Washington hired from Arizona, and with Brennan Carroll, Pete Carroll’s son, who will be the Huskies’ offensive coordinator. The Rogerses liked what they heard. Fisch very much wanted for Will to remain at Washington.

And so he will. Rogers made the announcement Tuesday night on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Fisch’s offense is not exactly the Air Raid, but it uses many of the same concepts. At Arizona, his teams threw the ball on nearly three-quarters of their plays and averaged more than 300 yards passing per game. And Fisch has 13 years of NFL coaching experience, something that factored heavily in Will Rogers’ decision.

In an interview with ESPN’s Pete Thamel, Rogers said, “Coach Fisch told me, ‘I want to treat you like a professional football player.’ I told him that’s what I want, and that’s what I am looking to do.”

Wyatt Rogers is pleased, even if his son will live and play all the way across the continent.

“It’s time to put all that other stuff behind him,” Wyatt Rogers said. “I think he’s learned some valuable lessons, not just about football but about life. I just want him to enjoy this last year of college football, see another part of the country, meet new people, play in new stadiums, enjoy the experience.”

Will already has his degree from Mississippi State. He is taking graduate classes at Washington and already going through winter workouts with his new teammates and coaches.

Said Wyatt Rogers, “Will’s had the rug jerked out from under him more than once in the last year or so. I told him it’s time to put blinders on and go to work. I believe that’s just what he will do.”


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