February 22, 1963: Athlete Ira "Rat" Rodgers Dies at 67

Athlete Ira Rodgers

Ira Rodgers died on February 22, 1963, at age 67. “Rat,” a nickname adapted from his middle name of Erret, was one of West Virginia University’s greatest football players. The Bethany native was named to Walter Camp’s All-American team three times: in 1916, ‘17, and ‘19—the first of WVU’s All-Americans. In 1919, Rodgers led the nation in scoring with 147 points—49 of them coming in one game. Sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote that “there was no greater all-around football player in the land.”

He still holds WVU’s records for most touchdowns in a game, season, and career. A multitalented athlete, Rodgers also starred on WVU’s basketball and baseball teams. In 1929, he won the state amateur golf title despite having played the game for only two years.

After his playing career ended, Rat Rodgers stayed with the Mountaineers as a professor and coach for four decades, twice serving as head coach of the football team. In 1953, he became the first WVU player elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Many sports historians still consider him West Virginia’s greatest all-around athlete.