Oct. 27, 2003
Former Georgia Tech football coach Franklin “Pepper” Rodgers and former Rambling Wreck standout players Wade Mitchell and Pat Swilling were selected for induction into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2004, which will be enshrined next April at the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, also includes Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, golfer Tim Simpson, former Atlanta Falcon Claude Humphrey, former Atlanta Hawk Dominique Wilkins, former major league baseball standout John “Blue Moon” Odom, and long-time football official James Harper.
Rodgers was also an outstanding player at Georgia Tech, but he will be enshrined as a coach. Currently the Vice President of Football Operations for the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta native enjoyed a successful coaching career in both college and professional football. Collegiately, he guided programs at Kansas (1967-1970), UCLA (1971-1973), Georgia Tech (1974-1979). He led Kansas to the 1968 Big Eight Conference title and was twice named Big Eight Coach of the Year. Rodgers turned UCLA’s offense into one of the nation’s best while guiding the Bruins to records of 8-3 (1972) and 9-2 (1973) in his final two seasons. He returned to his alma mater in 1974 where he compiled a six-season record of 34-31-2.
At Tech, Rodgers coached five All-Americans and 24 players selected in the NFL draft. Future head coaches who served as Rodgers’ assistants include Steve Spurrier, Jerry Glanville, Terry Donahue, John Cooper, Dick Tomey, Dick Bestwick and Barry Wilson. As an assistant coach, Rodgers tutored two future Heisman Trophy winners in Spurrier at Florida and UCLA’s Gary Beban.
Rodgers was a three-year letterwinner (1951-52-53) as a quarterback and placekicker for the Yellow Jackets under Bobby Dodd. He was part of Tech’s most glorious football era, helping the Jackets to a 32-2-2 record, three bowl victories and the 1952 national title, and he was the Most Valuable Player of the 1953 Sugar Bowl, which capped Tech’s 12-0 championship season.
Mitchell, also an Atlanta native and a teammate of Rodgers in 1953, was chosen from the Senior’s category. Mitchell quarterbacked Georgia Tech and was named third-team All-SEC in 1956 and Academic All-American in 1955. He passed for 1,002 career yards, eight TDs, 17 interceptions and also rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 TDs. Mitchell helped lead Tech to three consecutive bowl victories that included the Cotton (1955), Sugar (1956) and Gator (1956). He served as team co-captain his senior season (1956) as Tech went 10-1. In 1996, Mitchell became the first former Georgia Tech athlete to be inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame.
Swilling, from Toccoa, Ga., still ranks as one of the top sack artists in Tech and NFL history. He was a first-team all-America and all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection in 1985, when he set the Tech single-season record with 15 quarterback sacks as well as the ACC single-game record of seven sacks. He finished his career as Tech’s all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
Swilling was a third round selection by the New Orleans Saints in the 1986 NFL Draft, beginning a 12-year professional career. A five Pro-Bowl selection, he ranks 14th in NFL history with 107.5 career sacks. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 by setting a then-Saints club record of 16.5 sacks, a mark he eclipsed when he led the league with 17 sacks in 1991.
A 1991 graduate of Georgia Tech, Swilling was elected to the Louisiana State House of Representatives in 2001. He now makes his home in New Orleans, La.
More information on the Class of 2004 and the Induction Ceremony next April, can be obtained by visiting the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame website at www.gshf.org or by calling the GSHF at (478) 752-1585, ext. 101 or 102.