Last week, we got to know former KU defensive tackle Kevin Kopp and before that, quarterback Matt Johner. In our series “The Lost Jayhawks”, we feature some of the less-prominent players from the past or players that many Jayhawk fans old and new have led fade into their distant memory.
Today, we talk with Keith Rodgers, a linebacker at Kansas from 1992 through 1995. Rodgers was a regular in the KU defense and captained the 1995 team that went 10-2 and won the Aloha Bowl. He was nice enough to join us in early May for a quick interview and this is a transcript of that conversation.
RCT: What are you doing now? What type of business, etc?
Rodgers: I am a banker; Director for Lending Solutions for USAA.
RCT: What was the recruiting process like coming out of high school?
Rodgers: It was awesome. KU did a good job of hosting me on campus and I got a really good glimpse of life for a student/athlete. The environment is warm (except during winter) and the team and staff treated you like family. I had my choice between schools, but having a connection to KU through my brother and being able to play with friends from high school and be close to family was what made my decision.
RCT: What do you think was your biggest accomplishment in a KU uniform?
Rodgers: Being named captain my senior year. We achieved a #6 national ranking which was a meteoric improvement from when I started in 1992.
RCT: What’s your fondest memory as a member of the KU football program?
Rodgers: Workouts. Even though they were really, really hard, they brought the team closer together and those experiences created lifelong friends. The time in between is where we became brothers.
RCT: What was your best attribute as a football player?
Rodgers: Heart. I played reckless without regard for my health as a sacrifice for team accomplishment. I gave it my all. I didn’t have all the NFL measurables but compensated by being the example for effort.
RCT: Who is your most talented teammate while at KU?
Rodgers: That’s tough... but I have to say Ashundai Smith. He was 5’4” on a good day but was hard to catch, cover, and played much bigger than his stature.
RCT: I read an article about your leadership prior to the ‘95 season. Did you guys know that you were going to be that good that season? Any hint that you’d be a top-10 team?
Rodgers: We knew we had a good core and if our younger players could play up to their abilities, we could make a run at the Big 8 title. We had all the pieces.
RCT: Do you keep up with KU football now? If so, what’s your impression of the current team/coaching staff, etc?
Rodgers: It’s tough to watch. The uniforms and facilities are top-notch but the product on the field is not. We panicked when changing coaches that could have maintained our level of success. But when there is a constant rotation at the top, it’s hard to have consistent success.
RCT: Do you ever come back to Lawrence? For football or for leisure or both?
Rodgers: I travel a lot for work and living in Arizona, it is hard to get back with frequency, but I attempt to plan it annually. However, I don’t let more than five years go by without stopping in.