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'Not settled on one': New SDSU football coach Jimmy Rogers aims to turn 2022 season into 'standard'

"I am not settled on one," Rogers said. "I told Payton Shafer … that he’s the first linebacker to leave with a national championship and he’ll be the last linebacker that leaves with one.”

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South Dakota State football head coach Jimmy Rogers speaks during an introductory press conference on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 at the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center in Brookings.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic
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BROOKINGS — Seventeen years ago, John Stiegelmeier sat in the living room of Jimmy Rogers' home in Arizona.

Stiegelmeier, then the head coach at South Dakota State, offered the undersized and lightly recruited Rogers a 65% scholarship and to have his books paid for in order to come to Brookings.

Before he could finish the sentence, Rogers reached over the table, shook his hand, said, “I’m in,” and assured him they’d win a national championship.

Fast forward to January 2023 and the promise Rogers made 17 years ago came true. Two weeks later, Stiegelmeier announced his retirement as the head coach and Rogers was named as the 21st head coach in program history.

“At 17 years old, South Dakota State wasn’t a dream of mine. Now that I’m 17 years older, I can proudly say that my reality has become a dream,” Rogers said.

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Rogers, 34, has been with SDSU in different capacities as a coach for 10 years — the longest tenured assistant coach on the Jacks’ 2022 staff — and played under Stiegelmeier from 2006-2009. As a player, he was a captain on the Jackrabbits' first FCS playoff team in 2009 and finished his four-year career with 312 tackles in 46 games. He also was a two-time all-conference selection at linebacker in 2007 and 2008, leading the Jackrabbits in tackles both seasons.

And it was during his time as a player, because of his leadership and dedication, that Stiegelmeier saw the qualities of a future coach.

“(Coach Jay Bubak) was his position coach, and late in Jimmy’s career Coach Bubak said, ‘Jimmy Rogers has impacted SDSU football more than anybody in the program, including you, Stig, including you,’” Stiegelmeier said. “That was as a player. And he’s continued that impact, that reputation, that desire.”

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South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier looks on during an FCS playoff football game Nov. 27, 2021 against UC Davis at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

The promotion from defensive coordinator to head coach for Rogers comes 26 years and one month after Stiegelmeier followed the same path: the defensive coordinator promoted to the head coach. But up until his time as the defensive coordinator, Rogers wore many different hats.

He was a graduate assistant at SDSU after graduating, helping out with defensive backs and linebackers. He then moved on to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where he was a graduate assistant working with the offensive line and the linebackers before making his return to SDSU in 2013.

From there, he coached the linebackers until he was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach in 2019, and in 2022 he entered his first season as the full-time, solo defensive coordinator.

But more importantly than all of that, are his playing days, he said.

“You can paint a picture to a student athlete exactly how you felt when you walked in the doors here, to know what it’s like to go over to Larson Commons and eat,” Rogers said about the advantage of having played at SDSU. “All the experiences that you get here as a student athlete, to speak intimately on that, I think there’s power in that.”

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With his void at defensive coordinator, he promoted safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Jesse Bobbit to the role. Bobbit will be taking over a defense that returns nearly all of its starters from a year ago.

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And on offense, the Jacks return a bulk of the starters from the national-championship squad, which is a welcome sight for the first-year head coach.

“I’m super excited that I get to do it with some of the guys that are coming back, there’s no question,” Rogers said. “I don’t know if there’s a better roster in FCS football.”

Despite the national title from a year ago, though, Rogers said it’s only the beginning for what’s now his program.

And even though to fans, things on the outside may look the same, there will continue to be change as he aims to build off of the 2022 championship and having just one national title isn’t the goal.

“We made a statement in 2022 and the ‘22 season, but as I told the guys (Thursday) night, that statement is now the standard.” Rogers said. “… If you know me at all, I am not settled on one. I told Payton Shafer … that he’s the first linebacker to leave with a national championship and he’ll be the last linebacker that leaves with one.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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