How Mississippi State QB Will Rogers began preparing to run Mike Leach's air raid offense as a 7-year-old

Andy Kostka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — As a 7-year-old, Will Rogers sat on his dad’s lap in the living room, and their attention was glued to the television. They were watching football, and even at that age, they dissected every offensive intricacy there could be — Wyatt a coach, and Will a quarterback in the making.

On that particular Saturday, they watched as Texas Tech beat Texas in wild fashion, Michael Crabtree catching a last-second touchdown. And they watched that matchup for a reason. There was no offense worth dissecting more than the one coach Mike Leach ran at Texas Tech.

“If (Leach) was on TV, it didn’t matter who else was playing,” Wyatt Rogers told the Clarion Ledger. “We were going to watch that game.”

It’s those moments that set the groundwork for the player Will Rogers would become. For better or for worse, his dad said, football is the main topic of conversation in the Rogers household.

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Wyatt Rogers is the offensive coordinator at Brandon High School, where Will Rogers grew into a star at quarterback. They emulated Leach’s air raid offense, and Rogers finished his high school career with 9,093 passing yards and 79 touchdowns.

Now, Rogers appears primed to lead Leach’s offense at Mississippi State as a sophomore. But his preparation for the role began more than a decade earlier, when he and his dad first began watching the air raid with regularity.

“Golly, he was always like a little sponge sitting there on the couch,” Wyatt Rogers said. “Some people might talk finances, business, or hunting, fishing. We talk about football.”

Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers has started two games for the Bulldogs this season. He threw for 336 yards against No. 11 Georgia on Nov. 21.

Years later as the starting quarterback at Brandon, Will Rogers barged into the coaches’ office, seeking answers.

Rogers had been up late the night before analyzing film from that day’s practice. And there was something he needed to understand before the school day began.

“Look at play 47 from practice yesterday,” Rogers asked. “What happened?”

“And I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘I bet half our coaches haven’t watched play 47 from yesterday,’” Tyler Peterson, the former head coach at Brandon, recalled. “He’s at home watching it at night, studying, and that’s the first thing he wanted to know when he came in. He’s that type of kid.”

Will Rogers has been that type of kid for as long as his dad can remember.

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Before the bell rang, he and his dad watched film together.

He’s continued that at Mississippi State, and to Leach what stands out is how much Rogers gains from watching those tapes.

“Some guys watch film because they should, some because they want to, or some because they know (the coaches) want them to, which means they don't get much out of it,” Leach said. “His dad is a coach, so I think that helps him know how to watch film. Will does get quite a bit out of it when he watches it.”

Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers (2) makes a pass against the Auburn Tigers during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

When Rogers was a junior at Brandon, facing rival Pearl in the 2018 playoffs, his dedication to reviewing tape paid off. Brandon faced a fourth-and-17 with just over a minute left, needing a touchdown.

Wyatt Rogers called a play from the press box during a timeout, but Will Rogers had other ideas. He took one of the headsets from a coach on the sideline and explained to his dad how Brandon’s H receiver could run a skinny post behind the linebacker.

“'It’s wide open,'” Wyatt Rogers recalled his son saying. “And I said, ‘Run it.’”

Wyatt Rogers had never seen the play before.

“And he throws a dart, and the receiver didn’t catch the ball — the ball caught him,” Wyatt Rogers said. “I mean, he didn’t have any choice but to catch it.”

Brandon scored a touchdown a few plays later, forcing overtime in a game they’d end up winning.

“How in the world in that moment did I trust that kid to do that?” Wyatt Rogers said. “But it was just, I knew in my heart that he had a better view than I did. … It just comes from hours and hours of preparing and film study.”

But it all started as a little boy on his dad’s lap in the living room, watching Leach’s offense — the one he’d one day run.