How football took him from Levittown to Yale and beyond
When John Rogan comes up to the podium to accept his induction into the 2022 Nassau County High School Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Crest Hollow Country Club, it will be the capstone to an incredible gridiron career. Rogan’s football path found him not only starring as a quarterback at Chaminade High School and Yale University, but winning consistently, accomplishments that earned him a spot in training camp with the New York Jets and then-L.A. Raiders and a subsequent run in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Montreal Alouettes/Concordes.
But interestingly enough, the East Meadow native’s journey began as an 8-year-old playing with the 9-year-olds on the Levittown Red Devils midget football team in the early 1970s. It was here that he first came under the tutelage of 25-year-old coach Robert Perpall, who would go on to play a major role in Rogan’s life as a mentor and friend for the next five decades.
It was Perpall, a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee with a storied coaching career at Seaford High School where his football teams won 72 percent of their games—including two Long Island championships—who nominated Rogan for Hall of Fame consideration. When Perpall was asked why, it came down to Rogan’s combination of football IQ, abilities, humility and successes.
“The guy over-achieved on every level—11 years old, 12 years old,” Perpall recalled. “I remember his middle school year because I was pretty friendly with the family. The [middle school team] was undefeated and then he won championships at Chaminade and at Yale. You bring all these championships and you’re the quarterback, it’s a reflection. As they say, quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame. His accomplishments have always been Hall of Fame-worthy. He was always so consistent. Never mind that he never had a bad year, he never seemed to have a bad game. And he did it all with such integrity.”
The genial Rogan readily admits that Perpall’s insistence that he transition from being a blocking fullback to quarterback was a life-changing decision. It was Perpall, along with his fellow coaches—John Dybus, Rich Festante and Jim Tintle—who used some Bill Parcells-flavored psychological manipulation to get the 11-year-old gridiron prodigy to make the positional switch.
“Sometime during practice I said I didn’t want to play quarterback,” Rogan explained. “It was all about handing the ball off and that was boring. Tintle brings us all into the middle of the field and everyone takes a knee. Perpall walks into the middle and there were 50 of us kneeling and he goes, ‘Hey Coach Tintle, Rogan doesn’t want to play quarterback.’ And he embarrassed me in front of the entire 50 people. And I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll play quarterback.’ Next thing you know, we were putting in a pro-style offense.”
Teammate and longtime friend Doug Delaney, who is working on a forthcoming documentary about his old midget football team with partner Gaille Pike called The Red Devils You Know, has instantaneous memories of Rogan’s prowess on the gridiron and isn’t surprised at how well both his old teammate and coach have fared since they were all lighting up teams at Polaris Field.
“John Rogan, a quarterback doing a triple fake reverse, dropping back 15 yards and throwing a 50-yard pass and hitting a guy in stride into the end zone,” Delaney said. “Kids didn’t do that back then. What fascinates me about both John and Coach Perpall is that if you ask either one of them what fueled the obvious success of their entire football careers, they will invariably cite anyone else but themselves—the line, other coaches, receivers and running backs, the defensive play. It is this kind of modesty and work-a-day ethic that made you want to follow them into battle time and time again.”
Rogan’s abilities led him to Chaminade, where he won the 1977 Thorp Award, given annually to the outstanding high school football player in Nassau County, a rarity in that he was one of only four athletes from a parochial school to win the award since its 1942 inception. These accolades earned this son of an NYPD detective four-year full-ride scholarship offers from Boston College, Syracuse University and the University of Virginia. But it would be storied Yale football coach Carmen Cozza who would walk through the door of the Rogan family home and make it clear that he wanted the strong-armed quarterback to come to New Haven.
“Carmen Cozza came, sat in the living room of the humble East Meadow abode of my parents where they still live and said he knew I had all these other school recruiting me and he knew my parents didn’t have money,” Rogan recalled. “He said schools were going to be calling every day and this was the last time he was going to talk to me until I made my decision. And he wanted us to know he wanted me to come to Yale.”
John Rogan Athletic Career Highlights
At Chaminade, won 1977 Thorp Award, given to Nassau County’s top player. One of four parochial school players to win the award since its 1942 inception.
All-Ivy League Quarterback.
Led Yale to three consecutive championships in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
When he graduated from Yale, Rogan was first in all-time passing yardage (2844) and second in touchdowns (26).
Was named to the 100th Anniversary All-Yale Bowl Team in 2014.
—Compiled by the Nassau County High School Hall of Fame
What the future Ivy Leaguer didn’t realize was that when his father walked Cozza out to his car, he guaranteed the coach his son would be suiting up for the Bulldogs in the fall despite the fact that Yale didn’t offer full-ride athletic scholarships. And while Rogan had to sign up for a mixed-bag financial aid package that also required him to work at the on-campus dining hall, he appreciates the decision his father made.
“My dad said to me that all these schools wanted me, but if I go to the first day of practice and break my leg, I’d still have a Yale education behind me,” Rogan said. “I loved playing football at Yale and had a great career. We were Ivy League champions three years in a row and barely lost. My dad had it square on—you get hurt day one and you still come out with a Yale diploma. You know what? A Yale diploma is really special.”
Football has been the major connector in Rogan’s life from the time he spent coaching 11- and 12-year-olds as an offensive coordinator in Greenwich, CT, where he and Deb, his wife of 34 years, raised three sons—Jack, Pete and Tommy. And in his involvement with the Delaney documentary and now this Hall of Fame induction.
“I’m more thrilled for my parents than for me about this [Hall of Fame honor],” he said. “My dad took care of the sports and my mom took care of the schooling. That’s why I had the grades to go to Yale while still being able to also throw a 50-yard spiral at the same time. I learned all that back when I was 11-years-old. And the nice thing about this whole thing that Doug pulled together is that I haven’t seen some of these guys in 50 years. And all of a sudden they show up and it’s like yesterday.”
Absolutely Amazing, I’d love to meet him one day, My father was a big fan of his