MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Pepper Rodgers had a larger than life personality and wanted to make people know one thing, he loved Memphis.
“He’d introduce himself to someone and it’d never be this is Pepper Rodgers, it’d be Pepper Rodgers, Memphis, Tennessee,” Steve Ehrhart said.
Pepper Rodgers first came to Memphis in 1984. He was the head coach of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats and then the head coach of the Memphis Mad Dogs in the Canadian Football League. He worked alongside Steve Ehrhart who’s now the executive director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
“One thing I remembered so well was he connected with the players,” Ehrhart said. “He would get them to work hard, but he knew how to have some fun, so the players performed well.”
Ehrhart described Rodgers as colorful and entertaining.
“People would want to come to the game to see what Pepper would do.”
And he continued that behind the scenes with his players.
“One day on the plane he put on his old Air Force helmet and went on the speaker and he was playing the music and the guys were just going wild,” Ehrhart remembered. “We went out and won that game because he knew how to connect and the players really would perform for Pepper.”
His ventures went beyond football. He was bar owner, author, actor, but most of all, a connector of people.
“Reggie White who is in the NFL Hall of Fame, one of our greatest Showboat players who went on to have a great career in the NFL. Reggie had a great sense of humor too,” Ehrhart said. “Reggie and Pepper were always pranking each other. Reggie could hide behind a corner and bark like a big dog and scare the heck out of you so Pepper would come right back at him.”
Ehrhart believed Rodgers would’ve shaken up the NFL if Memphis received an expansion team. He designed the wishbone offense that he ran when he coached at UCLA. Ehrhart said the stories are endless and most can’t be told on TV.