Rogers returns home to lead Lincoln football program

Published 5:46 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Levi Rogers is glad he left home, but he’s even happier to be back.

Rogers, a former Lincoln County football player and assistant coach, was named the Patriots’ head coach Wednesday.

He spent one season as head coach at Casey County after 12 seasons as an assistant coach at Garrard and Lincoln counties and Southwestern.

Email newsletter signup

He said he was in no hurry to leave Casey before the opportunity to return to Lincoln came along.

“If it had been anywhere else, I probably wouldn’t even have entertained the idea, but going back home is something I always wanted and something I always dreamed about,” Rogers said.

Yet as happy as he is to be back home, Rogers said he’s glad he spent some time in other programs.

“I’ve loved everywhere that I went from Lincoln County,” he said. “I encourage young coaches to step out of your comfort zone and do that. It made me a thousand times better as a coach.”

Rogers is the 13th coach in Lincoln history, replacing Josh Jaggers, who resigned earlier this month after two seasons.

“Levi has proven himself as a player, an assistant coach and last year as a head coach,” Lincoln athletic director Brad Petrey said in a news release. “He knows what Patriot Pride is all about and most importantly he wants to be here and help restore the program to what it was when he was a player here.”

Rogers is only two years removed from the program, where he served as assistant coach and offensive coordinator under Travis Leffew from 2015-17 and assistant coach and defensive coordinator under Spencer Crutchfield from 2018-21.

“I already know a lot of the guys that I’ll be coaching. They were eighth-graders when I left,” he said.

He also knows what it means to grow up with Lincoln football. His father, Scott, and some of his uncles played for Lincoln.

“I’ve been taught about Lincoln County football for as long as I can remember,” Rogers said. “I started out as a little kid on those sidelines. I played in the little league behind where the board of education is now. I’ve always had a lot of passion for Lincoln County football.”

Rogers, who played for Lincoln from 2004-07, said he first found an interest in coaching as an eighth-grader after he had knee surgery.

“I had a passion about playing and bringing Lincoln County back, but playing after high school wasn’t really a goal of mine,” he said. “Right after high school I wanted to coach.”

Rogers was a quarterback at Lincoln, where he led the Patriots to their most recent regional championship in 2007.

He set a school record for career passing yards (3.318) that has since been surpassed. He still holds school records for the most passing yards in a season (1,775) and a game (314), according to Jonathan Smith of WPBK-FM, and he held the record for career touchdown passes (32) until last season and ranks No. 3 in career passing yards.

However, he said playing for coach Larry French instilled in him an appreciation for defense as it cemented his desire to coach.

“He’s what did it for me. The defensive philosophy he brought in and the discipline, those were things I didn’t know as much about at the time,” Rogers said. “He said at a school like Lincoln County you’ll always be able to score points, you’ll have enough talent (for that), but if a school like this can learn to stop people they will be successful.

“He taught me the ins and outs (of defense). I didn’t start defense all four years, but I never missed a word of what he said.”

Rogers said he was also influenced by the three offensive coordinators he played for – Brad Hood, Clay Clevenger and Mike Elkin – as well as the many coaches he has worked with.

That includes Crutchfield, his first cousin, who left Lincoln to become the coach at Garrard in 2022. His mother and Crutchfield’s mother are sisters, and their families are close.

The cousins will face off in Rogers’ first game at Lincoln, which opens the 2024 season against Garrard on Aug. 23.

He said he enjoyed his year at Casey, where he led the Rebels to a 5-6 record, and he said he learned a great deal about the administrative side of being a head coach.

“I can’t say that’s my favorite part about it, but I got a lot of experience and I learned a ton,” he said.

Rogers said he knows Garrard and other opponents will be physical, and one of his first priorities at Lincoln is to prepare the Patriots to match that.

“We’ve got to recruit the hallways, and we’ve got to get in the weight room,” he said. “I know where Garrard County’s going to become that first game, and we have to make sure that we’re ready physically.”

Beyond that, he said he wants to work to develop not just a successful team but a successful program.

“It’s a lot more than just showing up on Friday’s and playing a football game,” Rogers said. “I just think that we’ve all got to get on the same page. … We’re going to be recruiting the hallways as well as the middle school, and I want to work with (parks and recreation director) Kaycie Bandura, who runs the youth league.”

Rogers also said he’ll prioritize character as well as ability.

“We’ve got to make sure as a coaching staff that we’re putting in the work to make sure we develop the character of those young men. When you do that, the football part will come,” he said.

Rogers said while all of the positions on his staff will be open, some Lincoln assistants will probably be retained. He said he’s less interested in finding specific coaches for specific positions than in finding the best available coaches.

“It’s not about offense or defense, it’s about putting together the best group and going from there,” he said. “As long as we keep developing the young men and developing the coaches, we can only go up from there.”