A humble Rodger Bird accepts the state’s highest athletic honor
The way Rodger Bird punished opponents in football could lead one to believe that he would display that boastful rough guy image. Not so. As his wife Sally stated in the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (KAHF) program, “He’s always been humble about his accomplishments.”
“I remember when our son Paul was a little boy, he came home from school and asked, “Did daddy use to play football?”
Yes he did, he really did in a way that made his family and those of us from Corbin proud.
Rodger loves to talk about football, but he does not boast or brag. I learned more about Rodger during the two years we recently lived in Henderson, Ky. where he and his wife, Sally, live.
When we moved there Rodger was the only person I knew in that town, other than my daughter’s family.
I spent many hours at his office talking football and about the “good old days.” As was mentioned in the KAHF program one might never know that he was one of the most accomplished football players in Kentucky history from the surroundings in his office. A memento here and there is all that is on display.
Rodger was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame last Thursday night in Louisville. My wife and I were among the many who were there to support Rodger.
Gary West,author, who spoke about Rodger’s career, told me that when he informed Rodger about the honor he was the typical Rodger by not getting very excited.
But Thursday night when Rodger saw the big crowd he said to me, “I didn’t know this many people would be here.” He was thrilled and I know he greatly appreciated the honor.
To have him inducted in 2017 was a big mistake. It should have been done many years ago because he was one of the best athletes ever in Kentucky.
No doubt about it the many who have been inducted in the past deserved the honor, but Rodger somehow was overlooked until now.
A little over a year ago the National Football League honored those who had played in the Super Bowl with a Golden football. Rodger presented it to Corbin High School in a wonderful ceremony at the Gilliam Gym.
What I didn’t know at that time was Rodger was the first player from Kentucky to ever play in the Super Bowl.
He played for the Oakland Raiders and in his first year he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Rodger was one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the nation. He chose to play his college football for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. His brothers Jerry, Calvin and Billy also starred at UK. Also, Jerry’s son Steve was an All-American in football at EKU.
I also learned from the program that in the “record section” of the media guide, Calvin, Billy and Rodger have their names listed 76 times (Calvin 32, Billy 1, and Rodger 43).
Jerry played basketball for Adolph Rupp and his jersey hangs from the rafters in Rupp Arena. Calvin and Rodger’s names have been displayed in Commonwealth Stadium.
The fabulous Birds. The great Selvy brothers. It was a thrill to watch them play and it has been an honor to write about them.
Gary West did such a beautiful job of writing about the Birds and Selvy’s and other athletes at Corbin High School in the book, “The Boys from Corbin ” published in 2013.
All copies of the book were sold out a few years ago, but if you have never read it, I urge you to do so.
The News Journal donated copies of it to the Corbin Public Library and it is available there.
Our sincere congratulations to Rodger Bird for his induction into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. He joins others from Corbin, Frank Selvy, Nick Denes and Roy Kidd in the Hall.
Another chapter in the life of a “Boy from Corbin.”