Behind The Scenes With Langston Rogers

Langston Rogers is most comfortable staying in the background. It’s there behind the scenes that the Calhoun City native has put together a Hall of Fame career as a sports information director with Delta State University and Ole Miss.

Rogers, 65, practically grew up on the Calhoun City Square. His mother died when he was not yet 1-year-old, and his father was in the Merchant Marines, stationed in St. Petersburg, Fla. He later served almost 20 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Rogers, his brother David and sister Raymona (James) were 1, 3 and 5-years-old and facing the possibility of being separated.

“They wanted to split us up. I was going to get sent to Memphis with family, my brother to a great aunt in Shannon, and my sister would remain there in Calhoun City with our grandparents,” Rogers said. “But my grandmother put her foot down. She wouldn’t have it.”

Olivia and Buck Langston raised all three of their grandchildren. Mr. Langston farmed ap-proximately 20 acres just east of Hwy. 9 near Bobby Parker’s business today at the northern city limits of Calhoun City. Mrs. Lang-ston operated a small cafe on the Calhoun City square.

“It was originally on the northeast corner of the square,” Rogers said. “I remember when it was moved, just like a house, to the southwest corner. It was the place to go for a good hamburger and Coke. Her Brunswick stew was one of her calling cards.”

Rogers wanted to work on the farm with his grandfather, but his grandmother said he was too small. His brother went to the farm, and Rogers went to work in the cafe.
“I would wash all the dishes after breakfast and then go play baseball,” Rogers said.

“Then I’d come back and wash the lunch dishes and then go play ball again. I practically grew up in that cafe.”
Rogers later found work with the Monitor-Herald newspaper and the Murphree family. Pub-lisher Stanley Murphree paid him 50 cents every Saturday to sweep out the building.

Editor June Murphree gave him his first writing assignment when he was 8-years-old.
“I turned in my first story to June, which was on my Little League ball game,” Rogers said.
“She told me I needed a byline. I wrote ‘By Langston Rogers, Sportsriter.’

“She printed it exactly like that, misspelled, just to teach me a lesson,” Rogers grinned. “I was only in the third grade, but I learned my lesson.”
Later, Mr. Murphree allowed Rogers to sweep up the shavings from the linotype. He would build a big fire under a cast iron pot and melt the shavings down to pour into a mold.

“I learned to recycle early,” Rogers laughed. “I got paid a $1 for that. I learned the newspaper business literally from the floor up.”
Rogers’ grandmother instilled a work ethic in him that kept him busy. He worked at various times at Listenbee’s drug store, Western Auto, and even shined shoes on the square.

“Some Saturdays I would make $12 shining shoes,” Rogers said. “I thought I was the richest man around.”

Rogers recalled when the streets were paved in Calhoun City, he and his brother loaded up a “little red wagon” with hamburgers, candy and Cokes and walked to the spot just outside of the town where the workers were making the asphalt and set up shop.
When he wasn’t in school where he worked on the school newspaper and annual, or at work in the cafe or one of his other jobs, Rogers was most often enjoying his favorite pastime of baseball.

“Baseball meant everything to me,” Rogers said. “My relationships came from baseball.”
It was baseball that brought him to Bruce to play for Coach Odis Logan’s American Legion team. It was the only one in the county at the time.
“I’ll always remember how uncomfortable it was putting that Bruce uniform on in the cafe and all the strange looks I would get,” Rogers grinned. “I would hitchhike to Bruce. It was all in good fun.”

As graduation neared, Rogers desperately wanted to go to Ole Miss. Dr. Carter Dobbs helped him to secure a manager’s position with the football team. But Coach John Vaught’s rule was freshman managers had to volunteer and could earn a scholarship as a sophomore.
“I didn’t have the where-with-all to do that,” Rogers said.

Then came legendary coach Bob “Bull” Sullivan to Calhoun City one day looking for football players for East Mississippi Junior College. Rogers met Sullivan and ended up landing a scholarship to East Mississippi as a statistician for the football team, baseball player, and student sports information director. While there he also served the school as editor of the campus newspaper and student body president.
“I got involved in everything I could,” Rogers said.

From East Mississippi he traveled to the Delta where he played baseball for Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Dave “Boo” Ferriss at Delta State. Rogers earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Delta State where he was also hired as a student sports information director.
There Rogers climbed the ladder and was eventually hired as the university’s first full-time sports information director.
He served in that role for 17 years before coming to Ole Miss on July 1, 1981.

Rogers was a finalist to come to Ole Miss a few years earlier, but pulled himself out of the running. He was being interviewed by Coach Vaught and other members of the selection panel when he told them that Bobo Champion deserved the job. Champion had served longtime SID Billy Gates as his assistant.
“Bobo had been extremely loyal, and loyalty means a lot to me,” Rogers said. “I guess that goes back to my grandmother and what she taught me. I had a great job in Cleveland, and my family was settled there.”

A year later Steve Sloan was hired as the new Ole Miss coach and he brought his own SID in, reaffirming Rogers’ earlier decision to stay in Cleveland.
Ole Miss did come calling a few years later when Warner Alford extended the opportunity. Rogers was ready this time to fulfill his dream of being a Rebel. In 1984, he was named the assistant athletics director for sports information, and has since been promoted to senior associate athletics director.

“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to come to Ole Miss,” Rogers said. “It’s hard for me to believe now that I’ve been here at Ole Miss longer than I was at Delta State.”
Rogers credits his time with Coach Sullivan at East Mississippi and his tenure with Coach Ferriss and Coach Horace McCool at Delta State with putting him “on track.”
“Coach Sullivan gave me the opportunity and responsibility to succeed right out of high school,” Rogers said.

“I had so many great years at Delta State. I was there at a wonderful time when the women’s basketball program was in the midst of winning three straight national championships. That experience really opened a lot for doors for me in building relationships with the national media. It’s all about relationships in this business.”
Rogers said his time at Ole Miss has been filled with more great memories, such as the football win at Alabama in 1988– the day the Bear Bryant museum was dedicated.

“There have been so many great wins and heartbreaking losses in all the sports, it would be impossible to name them all,” Rogers said.
Among his favorite memories, however, are the student athletes who have come to him before leaving just to say thanks –  athletes like Wesley Walls, Terrance Metcalf, Eli Manning, Deuce McAllister and more.

“That’s why I do it,” Rogers said. “To see those student athletes come in as kids and leave as adults. It’s not about me. It’s about the student athletes, coaches and administrators.”
Rogers’ career has been filled with numerous accomplishments. He is a past president of the  College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and served 11 years on the Board of Directors. He continues to serve on several key committees of CoSIDA and became the 100th inductee into its Hall of Fame in 1990. Earlier this summer, Rogers received the Trailblazer Award from CoSIDA.  The award goes to a person who has mentored and helped improve the level of ethnic and gender diversity within CoSIDA.

Rogers was also inducted into the Mississippi Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame in 1997. He received the Distinguished Statesman Award from Delta State in 1998, the Elmore (Scoop) Hudgins Sports Information Directors Award from the All-American Football Foundation in 1999, and the Arch Ward Award from CoSIDA in 2001. The Arch Ward Award is presented annually to a CoSIDA member who has made outstanding contributions to college sports information and is the highest award presented to a member of that national organization.

He currently serves as a member of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame District 3 screening committee, is a member of the Media Coordination Committee for the NCAA Women's Final Four Basketball Championship and is an honorary member of the University of Mississippi M-Club Alumni Chapter. He is also a past president of the Southeastern Conference sports information directors and was one of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s press liaison officers at the 1982 National Sports Festival.
“This isn’t an easy profession,” Rogers said. “I’ve been blessed with a very supportive family.”

He is married to the former Paula Lowery of Cleveland, Miss. They have two children, Laura and Bill, and four grandchildren, Austin, Anna, Abbie and Avery. Laura received her PhD from the University of Mississippi and Bill’s undergraduate degree is from Ole Miss.

“I’m proud of where I came from in Calhoun City and Calhoun County,” Rogers said. “It was a great place to grow up. I had wonderful grandparents who worked hard and instilled tremendous values to carry us through life.”

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