Class of 2011
Some athletes, the real special ones, transcend eras. Former Trinity High School football star Lewis Coger is one of those athletes. The 2011 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee was a standout offensive lineman and linebacker for the Panthers. His skill level was off the charts and would match up well with just about any football player being recruited out of the high school ranks today.
While it has been over 50 years since Coger played his last game at Trinity, his size and speed rivaled those playing the game today. Coger was 6'3", weighed 235 points and possessed sprinters like speed. Had he played in today's football era, schools from coast to coast would be vying for his signature as he looked like the prototypical linebacker by today's standards. "I tell my grandson that if I played today I could run by him, strip his shirt off and he would never know what happened," laughed Coger.
Coger was a four-year starter for Trinity High School. He played both ways for Coach Hadley Province and the Panthers. On offense, he played guard and was a linebacker on defense. He led the team in tackles during his junior and senior seasons. When asked why didn't play running back with his speed, Coger had a simple explanation. "I asked Coach Province one time about me playing running back and he told me that if he put me in the backfield, who was going to open up any holes for me to run through?" said Coger.
Athens resident Fred Sloss was a high school teammate of Coger's and says that Coger was instrumental to Trinity High School's success on the gridiron. "Lewis was a very good all-around football player. He was a great athlete. We had a lot of big wins during our career at Trinity. We won championships and Lewis was big contributor to our success," said Sloss.
Coger, who now resides in Decatur with his wife Elsie, says he has fond memories of his days at Trinity High School. "Those were hard years but good years. We worked hard but that was all we knew. I played on some really good football teams," said Coger. Football wasn't the only sport that Coger excelled in. An accomplished sprinter in track, Coger recorded a 9.8 time in the 100 yard dash at the Tuscumbia District meet during his senior season. Coger graduated from Trinity High School in 1958 and briefly moved to Rockford, Illinois before returning to north Alabama where he begin a career in semi-professional football. He signed on to play with the Decatur Rough Riders in 1961 and helped lead the team to an amazing 66-2 record during a six-year period against teams from all across Alabama and Tennessee. He played fullback on offense and linebacker and tackle on defense. Coger says it was the love for football that drove him to playing for the Rough Riders. "We all had full-time jobs but we treated playing for the Rough Riders like our job. We didn't make much money. The travel was tough. But, we had some really good teams that won a lot of games. All in all, it was a good experiencefor me," said Coger. The QB for those powerful Rough Riders teams was Charlie French and he says Coger was one tough football player. "Lewis was just so powerful and fast. He was very physical. I remember we were playing a team out of Birmingham. Lewis took the handoff from me, ran up into the line and hit a guy head on. Lewis hit him so hard that the other guy's helmet cracked wide open. The poor guy had to spend the night in a Decatur hospital. Lewis was our fastest player and there is no doubt in my mind that had he come along at a different time, he would have played at some of these top colleges," said French.
When the Rough Riders disbanded in 1966, Coger settled into coaching and spending evenings at the sporting events of his two children Terrance (Lamon) and Yolanda. He retired from Amoco Chemical after 23 years and now spends time watching his grandchildren play sports.
Coger says he has many people to thank for his induction to this Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame class. "I had so many great teammates at Trinity and with the Rough Riders. I like to thank them along with the friends I had in high school that helped me along the way. Coach Province also had a great influence in my football career. I would like to thank the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame board of directors for this great honor. I feel very privileged to be selected in this year's class," said Coger.