Hometown: Bethany, WV
Career: 1915-1917, 1919
Record: 24-9-4, Bowl Record: 0-0
Ira Rodgers is only the second Mountaineer player to have his number official retired by WVU. Realistically, Rodgers number should not just be retired in football, but across all sports at WVU. He would star in football, basketball, baseball, and golf for the Mountaineers. Obviously, Rodgers excelled best on the grid-iron, where he helped craft West Virginia into a regional college football powerhouse. Rodgers started his Mountaineer career as a quarterback, eventually moving to fullback for the rest of his career. During this era of football, the fullback was far more important than the quarterback since the forward pass was not widely used yet. Rodgers had the Mountaineers riding high through 1917. The 1918 football season was cancelled across the nation as a result of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Rodgers hit the field again in 1919, powering the Mountaineers to an 8-2 record including a win over national powerhouse Princeton. Rodgers talents caught the attention of the national media (an incredible fete in the World War I era). Rodgers would become West Virginia’s first consensus All-American. Rodgers would continue to serve West Virginia long after graduation as a football coach. He would go on to be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Memorable Game: The biggest win of Rodgers era of Mountaineer football came during a road game against Princeton in 1919. During this day and age in college football, Princeton was a national powerhouse. The Mountaineers ventured out to New Jersey, looking to make a name for the program. Rodgers would end up making a name for him in this game. Rodgers accounted for all 4 of West Virginia’s touchdowns. The Mountaineers defense kept the Tigers offense in check, shutting them out for the afternoon. West Virginia landed a resounding 25-0 win. The big win earned Rodgers recognition from the national media, leading to his All-America nod later that fall.
Competition: There is no competing with one of the best all-around athletes to don a Mountaineer uniform. I will though mention that the last two athletes to wear #21, Dorrell Jalloh and Ryan Mundy, honored the number with their special talents.
Teaser: Tomorrow we feature another stud running back for the Mountaineers. This rusher was also once the school's all-time leading rusher (hint, hint). I would assume most Mountaineers fans will be able to determine who this famous Mountaineer is. However, if you need some time to think about it, you can listen to Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.