Roger Kingdom aims to get Buccaneers over last hurdle for a Super Bowl title
The Super Bowl features a few players fast enough to leave smoldering scorch marks on the Raymond James Stadium grass — among them receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman of Kansas City, and Scotty Miller of Tampa Bay. They’re the kind of talent that leave evaluators slapping their foreheads and staring at their stopwatches in disbelief.
The speed and conditioning coach for the Buccaneers is Olympian Roger Kingdom, who was on Arians’ Arizona Cardinals staff and followed him to Tampa.
Kingdom, 58, won the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 1984, and again four years later in Seoul, South Korea.
He began his college career at the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship, playing running back and free safety on a team that included future NFL stars Dan Marino, Chris Doleman, and Jimbo Covert.
The problem for Kingdom was, he was too gifted at track. He considers himself a football player who could sprint, not the other way around, but success in the track world was a powerful draw.
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“Football was still in my heart,” said Kingdom, who grew up on a farm in Vienna, Ga. “When I would come back home, I would always be in the stadium where my old teammates and everything else were practicing. I’m working out while they were working out. … That kept me close to football.”
He considered becoming a decathlete, because he could high jump 7 feet, 1 inch, and was a 25-foot long jumper. Instead, he rounded into the best high hurdler in the world.
Kingdom developed his relentless work ethic as a kid growing up on a farm, where his family lived in poverty.
“The best way to describe how I grew up was like the movie, ‘The Color Purple,’ ” said Kingdom, one of six children. “The house that we lived in didn’t have a bathroom. They didn’t get a bathroom until I went off to college. It had a tin roof, so when it started raining and storming, the water’s leaking into the house. You had to go get buckets and everything.”
Still, because the family raised and grew virtually all of its food, Kingdom doesn’t recall ever wanting for anything.
“On the farm, man, we raised livestock,” he said. “We had hogs, we had chickens, we had corn and peanuts, rye, watermelon, cantaloupes, all kinds of produce and so forth.
“Everything was a grind. You know what? Even though we didn’t have the resources of the things that a lot of other people did, we still felt we were rich because, living on the farm, you never had to worry about food.”
That has helped him develop his coaching philosophy.
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“People are not just going to give you things,” he said. “If you have things handed to you all the time, the minute you have to face adversity then you’re not going to be prepared for it.”
He has faced his share of adversity, and now is one victory away from pro football’s ultimate prize.
“The Lord has blessed me and put me in a situation now where all of a sudden you get a chance to win the greatest championship of them all, a Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl ring,” he said. “What would that mean to me? I have no idea, man. I’d probably break down and just cry.”
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