Thursday, September 18, 2014

Linfield football great Rogers (not Roger) Ishizu: The story behind his name and more

As originally posted 9/18/2014
When Rogers Ishizu traveled from Hawaii in fall 1962 to the Mainland to attend Linfield College, he bought along his distinctive first name. As Wildcat fans know, it's Rogers (plural), not Roger (singular).

Why Rogers instead of Roger?

That brings us to his siblings, the Ishizu brothers.

His elder brother was Roy. His second brother is Clarence. Then comes Rogers, the younger brother, born in 1944.

At some point while growing up, Rogers asked his father, “Why am I Rogers and not Roger?" His father responded, "We wanted to have a cowboy in the family." To explain, in honor of western singer and actor Roy Rogers, his parents’ named him Rogers to go along with Roy’s name. Roy and Rogers. “My Mom and Dad enjoyed Roy Rogers’ singing,” Rogers said.

After learning the roots of his name, Rogers responded to his father in jest, "Well, how come Clarence is Clarence and wasn’t named Dale (Dale Evans, Roy Rogers’ wife) or Trigger (Roy Rogers’ horse)?

The Brothers Ishizu all graduated from Maui High School, home of the Sabers.

Roy had no interest in sports, But, Clarence turned out for football. But, it was a short lived experience. During a football practices, a player was injured and died. “No more football,” Clarence was told by his parents. 

By the time Rogers got to Maui High as a freshman in fall 1958, he was 110-pounds and 5-foot-1. His parents said, “no football, you’re too small. You’ll get hurt.”

Rogers politely lobbied his parents. His father, who had played football on Maui while growing up, understood Rogers’ desire to play the sport. He told his son, “OK, we’ll you can play, but you have to maintain your grades.”

INTERESTING TO NOTE: When Rogers was in elementary school one of his teachers asked each student in her class to stand before the class and say what they wanted to be when they grew up. Rogers told the class he wanted to be an “electronics engineer.” An admirable goal, his teacher indicated to Rogers, but being an engineer or even graduating from high school required better grades than he was getting. Another of his elementary teachers emphasized the importance of graduating from high school and going to college. “That made me realize that in order to succeed in whatever I decided to do in life, I needed to not just be in school for sports, but to do well academically,” Rogers said.==

So, football it was for Rogers Ishizu playing for the Maui High Sabers coached by the legendary Izumi “Shine” Matsui, who led football at the school 1959-1968 and was athletic director, 1969-1988. 

Rogers played JV basketball at Maui High as a freshman and ran sprints, hurdles and relays in track & field, but football was his favorite sport.

As a freshman, he was on the JV football team. He played varsity football as a sophomore, junior and senior. 

After his senior football season, Rogers told Coach Matsui he was interested in going to college and playing football. The coach knew of Linfield and wrote Paul Durham, Linfield football coach. “Coach Matsui said he was hopeful Linfield would accept me, but he said I ought to contact a couple other schools just in case. So I wrote Pacific University (Forest Grove) and Willamette University (Salem).,” Rogers said.

Later, after graduating from Maui High, Rogers got good news from Linfield. Rogers was accepted for admission.

Durham said Coach Matsui “recommended Rogers highly; we corresponded for a time and (fortunately Rogers) decided to come (to Linfield).”

But, although accepted to Linfield, the college indicated Rogers low grades in high school were a concern. He would need to be a good student academically to be eligible to participate in sports at Linfield. 

He aspired to be a school teacher and coach. To make that possible he would need to devote himself to academic at Linfield.

The trip from Maui to Oregon in fall 1962 was his first journey outside of Hawaii. He flew from Maui to Oahu. Then, he took another flight from Oahu to Portland. Once in Portland, he got himself to the Greyhound bus depot in downtown Portland and took a bus to McMinnville. 

During the bus trip to McMinnville Rogers was surprised as he was seeing towns and areas with fewer cars and people than Maui. While he was from a small town, Kula on Maui, the entire island of Maui was his home and it had a population much larger than his eventual destination: McMinnville.

Durham met Rogers after he got off the bus in McMinnville from Portland. “I had long hair and sideburns, I looked like Elvis Presley,” Rogers said. “One of the first things the coach told me was to get a haircut. And, I did!”

But, he thought about leaving Linfield without ever stepping on the college’s Maxwell (football) Field. As a freshman, Rogers attended a meeting of Linfield football players in Dillin Hall cafeteria. 

“I was scared,” Rogers said. “There were guys 280 pounds and 6-foot-7. There was no one that size when I played in high school. I was maybe about 145 pounds and 5-foot-5 then. I called my dad and told him I’d get killed by players this size. He told me I was going to stay at Linfield and to realize those players were going to block for me when I was running with the ball. That helped me calm down.”

Coach Durham was a “father figure” for Rogers. “I was so far from home, I appreciated his positive influence off the field,” Rogers said. “And, of course, I appreciated his coaching on the field.”

INTERESTING TO NOTE: Rogers had an on-campus job at Linfield. He was in charge of Riley Gym. He opened the gym it in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, at 4:30 he closed it, swept and mopped the gym floor.”==

ALSO: For two summers in McMinnville, Rogers worked at the  Norwest Fabrics, Inc., woolen mill  where, among other things, "Mac Plaid" (Mac as in McMinnville) blankets were made. From the money earned in that job, he bought a 1959 turquoise and white Corvette from Willie Chang, a Linfield grad and former Wildcat football player from Hawaii. ==

Once Rogers stepped on the field for Linfield football as a wingback, Oregon news media reacted positively. 

Joe Much, sports editor of the Salem, Oregon, Capital Journal daily newspaper, wrote that Rogers was the “darling of the backfield… He is so swift and shifty that he often leaves defenders” grasping for air, not for Rogers, who has sped past them. “Because of (his) squat nature and Maxwell Field’s bleary lights, he sometimes disappears completely. Veterans in the crowd just wait patiently for him to turn up somewhere down the field.”

“Ishizu: Pint-Sized Powder Keg” is the headline of a story written by sports reporter Dick Fishback of the Portland Oregonian daily newspaper. Some of what Fishback wrote:

--Rogers has a “calm manner and quiet ways…”

--In a Linfield football uniform “sparks begin to fly.” Opponents “all tell the same story – (Rogers is) amazingly quick and can turn a game around in a moment.”

--Coach Paul Durham said Rogers’ “quickness makes the difference .. tacklers seldom hit him square.”

--Wildcat Rogers is a “tiger on the counter play” and an excellent receiver. “He can clear himself very well and has tremendous hands,” Durham said. “If the quarterback can get the ball near him, he can usually get it.”

A 1965 story about Rogers in the Oregonian says he has a “quietly effective manner in dealing with tacklers.” Said Rogers, “When I get contact with a tackler, he releases a bit and that’s when I move.” 

Also in the Oregonian in 1965, Coach Durham talked about Linfield playing another team, “If nothing else, we'll Ishizu them" referring to the touchdown-making ability of Rogers. “The Wildcat wingback (is) a frequent target for the aerials of Terry Durham and Mike Barrow, gathering in 29 passes for 348 yards and was a game-rending punt return ace, taking in 19 for 343 yards and several touchdowns.”

--“Dazzling” is a one-word description of Ishizu in a 1966 Oregonian story.

“The best runner I’ve seen in a long time” is how Ishizu is described in a 1967 Oregonian story.

INTERESTING TO NOTE: During Rogers’ Linfield time as a player, Durham suggested Rogers move from wingback (running with the ball and being a receiver) and be a halfback. “You’d get the ball more,” Durham said. Rogers decided he’s make the change. So that summer he worked hard and increased his weight from about 170 to 190 pounds. When practice that fall started, Rogers  said, “I was way too heavy. I could not run. I tried the position and did not like it. So, I had to go on a diet and lose most of the weight I’d gained and stayed at wingback.==

Two of Rogers' Linfield football games as a player were a contrast of weather and success. 

--In 1964, Rogers was on the Linfield team which played in a NAIA playoff game  in Fargo, North Dakota, on Nov. 21, 1964. It was Linfield versus Concordia College of nearby Moorhead, Minn. For all of Linfield’s football players, it was a  long underwear game. For Rogers, a player from Hawaii, it was cold beyond imagination.  At home in Hawaii, he was used to hot and humid. In the Pacific Northwest, it could be rainy and cool. But, game temperature against Concordia ranged from 10 to 15 degrees and Linfield lost, 28-6. In Linfield athletics lore, the game is nicknamed the “Concordia Ice Bowl.” 

--More satisfying, because of the location, weather and outcome was Linfield’s 1967 season-opening football game on Sept. 23, 1967 in Honolulu. It was the only game during Rogers Linfield football playing career in which his parents saw him play. Linfield beat the highly favored University of Hawaii. The stadium crowd 20,000 is the largest crowd ever to still the most ever to see a Linfield game in person in any sport. Here’s the Associated Press story which ran in the

Oregonian of  Sept. 25, 1967

Linfield Tips Hawaii, 15-13

HONOLULU (AP) -- Little Linfield College of McMinnville, Ore., upset the highly favored University of Hawaii, 15-13, Saturday night before an estimated 20,000 spectators, the largest crowd to see the Rainbows play in 20 years.

Tim Kubli's three field goals, the passing of Mike Barrow, the running of Ed Griffin and the pass receptions of Rogers Ishizu were the big factors in the Wildcat victory.

Linfield opened the scoring in the second quarter on Kubli's first field goal of 14 yards Hawaii took the lead late in the same period when Larry Arnold passed to Jim Schultz for 10 yards.

Linfield took command again in the third quarter when Barrow pitched a 10 yard touchdown pass to Ishizu. The Wildcats made it 12-7 in the third period when Kubli kicked a 22-yard field goal. He got his last three pointer , good for 21 yards, early in the final period after which Hawaii came back to score on the biggest play of the night, a 47 yard pass from Dick Hough to Schultz.

Hawaii .... 0 7 0 6 -- 13
Linfield ... 0 3 9 3 -- 15

Linfield -- FG Kubli 14
Hawaii -- Schultz 10 pass from Arnold (Fatafehi kick)
Linfield – 10 pass from Barrow (kick failed)
Linfield -- FG Kubli 22
Linfield -- FG Kubli 21
Hawaii -- Schultz 47 pass from Hough (pass failed)

A story in the Sept. 27, 1967, Story in Oregonian said, “Both Linfield and UH went into the game with 11 players each on their rosters. Coach Durham said Linfield started six players from Hawaii, more than Hawaii got into the game. “So we had a lot of backers.” Said the story, one of the Hawaiians, Rogers Ishizu, caught a touchdown pass plus several more ..."

Following his playing career and graduation in 1967, Coach Matsui asked Rogers to return to Maui High School and succeed him as the school’s head football coach. “I told him I could not do that because I was going to stay at Linfield another year, help coach football and earn my Master of Education degree. He said ‘OK, then you can start the year after next.”

The 1968 Linfield football media guide includes this write-up about Rogers as an assistant coach to first year head coach Ad Rutschman: 

“Well known in Northwest Conference football circles via his great pass receiving, open field running and cutting the past three seasons, Rogers Ishizu enters his first season of coaching this year.”

“A 1968 B.S. Linfield graduate in Physical Education, the Kula, Maui, Hawaii coach made AP All-Coast, NAIA All-America, and All-Conference honorable mention post in 1965. In 1966, he was Little All-Northwest (second team). Highlighting his career in 1967 he made first team All-Conference and he was tabbed Most Inspirational by his Wildcat teammates. 

“He is also worked on his Masters in Education.”

Once Rogers did return to Maui High, this time as a teacher and coach, not as a student-athlete, he told Coach Matsui he didn’t want to become head coach immediately. “I served as JV football coach (1969 season) and Ransom Wong, a teacher at the school, was interim coach. Coach Matsui became athletic director. I became head football coach in 1970 and coached for eight seasons.” 

They were eight successful seasons, the Maui High Sabers won league titles in 1972, 1975 and 1976. 

On Nov. 17, 1972, the County of Hawaii Council congratulated the Maui High Football Team with a resolution. Maui High’s football team has “returned the championship in football of the Maui Interscholastic League after a difficult season and over determined opposition” after not winning a league football title for 17 years, reads the resolution.

The council recognized “excellence in sports as engendering determination, work and sportsmanship.”

The resolution also praised Maui High football team’s individual members, Coach Rogers Ishizu, Athletic director Izumi Matsui and principal Calvin Yamamoto.

Rogers’s initial teaching assignment at Maui High was special education. Most of his teaching years he taught health and physical education. In 1995 he retired as a teacher (after teaching 29 and one-half years at Maui High), but continued teaching for a while as a substitute.

INTERESTING TO NOTE: In 1977 Rogers and five friends started golfing on Saturdays. “We didn’t take lessons or practice. We were duffers and learned as we played. But, we enjoyed ourselves,” said Rogers. “Today I love playing golf, with those in the Saturday group. It’s down to four friends because two have died. I enjoy golfing so much that every year I travel twice to Las Vegas when the weather is good there and take part in two golf tournaments. It’s great fun.”

Modest in demeanor, and outstanding athlete, Rogers Ishizu is one of a kind and one great Linfield Wildcat.

Rogers and his wife, Karen (who has been an educator for more than 40 years) married in 1977. They live in Wailuku, Hawaii.

Rogers Mitsuo Izhizu was born Jan. 27, 1944, in Kula, Maui, Hawaii, and grew up in Kula. He was one of three sons of Tadashi and Miyoko (“Ruth”) Ishizu. His father was manager of M.D.G. Kula Supermarket for 40 years and his mother was a clerk at the supermarket for 35 years.

Rogers is a 1962 graduate of Maui, Hawaii, High School. In 1967, from Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education with a teaching certificate to teach health, physical education and social studies. In 1968, he earned a Master of Education degree from Linfield.

This Wildcatville story is based on an in-person interview on Maui of Rogers in Feb. 2010 and information from Rogers in 2014. Some info came from Portland and Salem, Oregon, newspaper stories about Rogers when he was playing football for Linfield. And a valuable resource was the Darrell Oishi “Preserving Our Recollections: An Oral History of Maui” interview of Rogers which took place on the University of Hawaii Maui campus in Kahulu, Maui. Rogers was 69-years-old at the time of the oral history interview which might have taken place Dec. 3, 2013. You can see the interview (it’s just about an hour of playing time) of Rogers at 

Still photos with this story include those from the oral history interview, from 1956 and 1962 Silversword yearbooks of Maui High School, from the 1968 Linfield football pressbook, Linfield Oak Leaves yearbook and other sources.


Here’s some of what Linfield football press guides included about Rogers during his four-year career (1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967) as a football player for the Wildcats and one year (1967) as an Linfield assistant football coach. Thanks to Linfield Sports Information for providing guides for review.

1964 Roster/Halfback:
Rogers Ishizu 5-6 170 age 20 class year junior. First letters earned.
Hometown: Hawaii. High school coach Izumi Matsui 
(Note: Was a freshman in football eligibility. Guide inaccurately listed him as junior.) 

1965 Roster/Halfbacks:
Rogers Ishizu, 5-6 and 170. Age 21. Class year junior. Second letter earned.
Hometown: Maui, Hawaii. High school coach Izumi Matsui
(Note: Was a sophomore in football eligibility. Guide inaccurately lists him as a junior.) 

Watch These Wildcats: Rogers Ishizu (170 5-6) stepped into the wingback spot early last season and proved to be one of the most stunning runners in the conference. He is potentially one of the best scatbacks on the coast.

Pre-season outlook: Leroy Fails will be joined by wingback Rogers Ishizu who came up with several great performances last year and is potentially one of the best scatbacks on the coast. 

Pictured on cover along with players Terry Durham, Jack Ostlund and Jim Consbruck.

1966 Roster/Halfbacks:
Rogers Ishizu, 5-6 and 170. Age 22. Class year senior. Third letters earned.
Hometown: Maui, Hawaii.
(Note: Was a junior in football eligibility. Guide inaccurately lists him as a senior.)

Individual honors earned in 1965 season: Rogers Ishizu, Wingback: A.P. All-Coast (honorable mention), NAIA All-American (honorable mention), All-Conference (honorable mention).

Pre-season outlook: All-Conference halfback Leroy Fails will be replaced by speedy Rogers Ishizu who played wingback last year. Ishizu was acclaimed as one of the best backs on the coast last year and gained NAIA All-American honorable mention. Joe Robillard may fill the wingback slot which Ishizu will vacate.

Pictured on cover along with players Joe Robillard and Bob Laycoe.

1967 Roster/Wingbacks:
Rogers Ishizu, 5-6 and 160. Age 23. Class year senior. Fourth varsity letters earned.
Hometown: Kula, Maui – Hawaii

Rogers Ishizu 160 5-6 senior: Rogers Ishizu will return to his wingback spot after playing halfback last year. During his three seasons at Linfield, he was considered one of the most exciting runners in the conference and last year he did his share of opening field running and cutting.

Last year Ishizu lead the conference in yards gained on punt returns with 232 on 19 attempts for a 12.2 average. He was 14th in rushing with 289 yards gained in 66 carries. The tiny speedster was sixth in pass receiving with 26 catches for 293 yards.

Ishizu’s open field running and cutting has been one of the key offensive attacks provided by Linfield. He gained NAIA All-American honorable mention in 1965 along with All-Conference mention. Last year he was tabbed as honorable mention All-Conference.

Ishizu is certainly a back to keep an eye on during the 1967 season.

Pre-season outlook: Coach Paul Durham will employ a majority of his returnees in the vacant positions. The offensive backfield will be led by speedy wingback Rogers Ishizu. During Ishizu’s last three years in the backfield spot he has gained All-Conference and NAIA All-American rank. He led Linfield in punt returns last year and is also a top pass receiver.

Individual honors earned in 1966 season: Rogers Ishizu, Halfback: Little All-Northwest (second team), All-Conference (honorable mention).

Individual honors earned as a player in 1967 season:
Rogers Ishizu: All-Northwest conference (1st year). Most Inspirational Player Linfield team award.


--Rogers’ nephew Ryan Ishizu, Clarence's son, was a halfback on the 2004 Linfield football team. Ryan, whose hometown is Pakalani, Maui, Hawaii,) is a 2004 grad of Maui High School.

--Rogers was an usher at the January 11, 1969, wedding in Beaverton of his Linfield football teammate Bob Haack and Nancy Steinbach, both Linfiedlers.

INTERESTING TO NOTE: Linfielder Ralph Ogata remembers when Rogers, wearing uniform #45, played for Maui High School. "You should've seen him run with the ball...," said Ralph. As a Linfield football player, Rogers wore three numbers. In the 1964 season he was #44. In the 1965 and 1966 seasons he was #12. In the 1967 season he was #20. 

Rogers and Rogers & Karen Ishizu on 10/17/2014 at Michaelbook Country Club in McMinnville, Ore., during Linfield 2014 Homecoming. Wildcatville photo.

Photos below taken by Wildcatville during Linfield Homecoming 2009. On the sidelines at Maxwell Field/Memorial Stadium on the Linfield College campus in McMinnville, Ore., during the Sat., Oct. 17, 2009, Linfield Homecoming football game, Rogers Ishizu is shown with his umbrella (it did rain a little, not much!) and also with Linfield player  #19 Maika Kunioka of Mililani (Leilehua).


In the PLU at Linfield football game in McMinnville, Ore., Sat., Sept. 18, 1965, on Linfield's Maxwell Field, the Paul Durham-coached Linfield Wildcats beat the PLU Knights, 17-0 From the Linfield Review student newspaper of Thur., Sept. 23, 1965. Dodger Roger Gains Ground – Linfield FLANKERBACK #12 Rogers Ishizu, an offensive standout for the ‘Cats, cuts upfield with a pass reception. On the right in the photo is #84 Ray Taylor, an end. Linfield Review photo by Rusty Rae.

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