Interview: Ehret head football coach Reggie Rogers poised to win games, instill winning attitude off the field
Reggie Rogers is a Kenner guy through and through.
Rogers grew up in the city and played at Bonnabel under Mike Villemarette and Rick Gaille, two mentors, before playing at Nicholls State. Rogers coached at Helen Cox under Willie Brooks and eventually landed the head coaching position at Bonnabel, serving in that capacity from 2011-16 at a program that has struggled to win for a long time.
Now, Rogers is the head coach at John Ehret, where winning is a regular occurrence. He is now all about the West Bank while appreciating his East Bank roots.
The Patriots won state titles in 1981 and 1985 and, most recently, played for a state championship in 2015.
While winning on the field is important, winning in life is more important to Rogers and he is determined to help his players along that path in life and he strives to follow the direction of his mentors and peers, including three giants of the industry that have passed away in recent times in Rick Gaille, Wayne Reese and Don Wattigny.
Speaking on The Three Tailgaters Show Saturday morning on 106.1 FM NASH ICON, Rogers spoke admirably of those coaching legends.
“When I called coach Gaille, he always answered,” Rogers said. “I had an opportunity to talk a few times with Coach Wayne Reese. Whenever you had a question, he would talk to you. The same this is true with Coach Wattigny. Coaching with Willie Brooks, he mentored me as well. Don Wattigny lived through Coach Brooks. He cared so much about him, just as Coach Gaille cared about me. When times are tough, you need a mentor, a voice of reason.”
With the protests around the country for equality, for Black Lives Matter and for ending injustices, does Rogers see real change on the horizon?
“I think this is something that has been building for a while,” Rogers said. “I don’t think people knew how to directly take it on, but I think it’s something that has been building. People have wanted to maybe take on such a task. We built this country on some things that are good and some bad. Right now, the bad is kind of coming to the forefront but it has to be addressed. We can’t turn a blind eye to it. We have to look it in the eye as we face any problem and deal with it head-on. It’s a tough time but as a country, we will get through it.”
Rogers talked about what made Villemarette and Gaille special as his coaches at Bonnabel.
“Those guys did not see race,” Rogers said. “It didn’t come out when they addressed the kids. It didn’t come out as ‘I’m going to do this because I’m a black guy or a white guy.’ It came out as they being genuine people, genuine fathers, genuine men. That’s important when you see guys like that. It doesn’t matter the color. It was the message that mattered.”
While Rogers had a good experience as a student-athlete at Bonnabel, he has seen and experienced his share of racism.
“My family is from Mississippi, my mother and my father,” Rogers said. “Being there summers and kind of being around, my grandparents were sharecroppers in the 80’s. I didn’t realize that until later that the things that they had I thought were theirs were not theirs. It was laying the work for somebody else. Despite being discriminated against, I commend my grandparents because they never taught us to hate. That could have been their message.”
That was not the message.
“They taught us to just listen to a man, look a man in the eye, listen to his words, hear what he’s saying, get the message,” Rogers said. “If there is something that you don’t agree with, remove yourself from that person. You don’t have to be disrespectful about it. If you see that they are genuine, you address them as such. I appreciated that message and it still holds true in me today. I look at people for who they are and I give them a chance to put themselves in a situation where I can trust or not trust them.”
The issue of profiling is real in the African-American community.
“It becomes an expectation,” Rogers said. “I’m a father of five, so I have plenty experience. My oldest son will be 22 this year and he’s off in Wisconsin, alone for the first time, so I have to constantly remind him ‘I’m not there to be with you so you have to able to handle things on your own. All parents do.
“We want our kids to be able to go off and to be on their own without us and to be able to carry themselves in such a manner that’s going to make their family proud and not embarrass themselves or their family. When a situation comes up, we stress to them to try to remain respectful. You should be able to express yourselves but sometimes you can’t. You have to be respectful and get the situation resolves as soon as you can.”
Rogers has learned to process discrimination and he has made the tough but positive decision to move on from it.
“I’ve had some experiences that I’ve not held on to,” Rogers said. “I grew up in Kenner, which is a diverse place. I was never around one kind of person. Hispanic, Asian, White and Black, we were all together. When I was in high school at Bonnabel, it was a diverse place. We had a chance to deal with all kinds of people. That got me ready for life. We saw the good, we saw the bad in all.”
Rogers has taken away from the good and bad and is using it for the greater good.
“It was a great learning experience,” Rogers said. “You take the good for what it is, you take the bad for what it is. You put it is a box. You put it someplace else and you just understand some people are just going to be that way and you want to be around the people who are going to treat you right and that’s the message for everybody. I think that’s what we all look for.”
With the vast experience, wisdom and coaching ability intact, Rogers is poised to continue a great tradition of winning at John Ehret while instilling a winning attitude in his players.
“That is the goal,” Rogers said.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…