LEXINGTON, Ky. — University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Famer Rodger Bird, an All-America halfback for the UK football team and member of a legendary family of Wildcats, has died at the age of 76 in Henderson, Kentucky.
“Rodger Bird is a true Wildcat great and a Kentucky football legend,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. “We are proud to call him a UK Athletics Hall of Famer and thankful for all he and the entire Bird family have given to this program. We send our condolences to all whose lives he touched.”
Known as the “Corbin Comet” in recognition of his hometown of Corbin, Ky., Bird played for the UK varsity under Coach Charlie Bradshaw from 1963-65. He was an all-around performer as a running back, pass receiver, kickoff returner, punt returner and defensive back. He led the team in rushing all three seasons, totaling 1,699 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 532 yards and four TDs. He had 27 total touchdowns during his career, then a school record, and led the Southeastern Conference in scoring as a senior with 13 TDs.
Bird was named first-team All-America as a senior by NBC and Time magazine. He was first-team All-SEC as a junior and senior by The Associated Press and United Press International. Following his senior season, he played in the Coaches’ All-America Game, the College All-Star Game, the North-South Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
Bird was drafted by the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League in 1966 and played for the Raiders from 1966-68. He was the AFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1966 when he had four pass interceptions and led the AFL in punt returns and yardage. He was second-team All-AFL in 1967 when he led the league punt returns, yardage and average. The Raiders won the 1967 AFL championship and played the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. As a defensive back, he had eight interceptions during his three seasons.
Bird is a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame and is a retired jersey honoree. He was named to the All-Time Kentucky Teams, by both the Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal, in 1990 during the 100th season of Kentucky football. He also is a member of the (state of) Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame and was UK’s SEC Legend at the 2011 SEC Championship Game.
Bird was the youngest of four brothers who donned Kentucky uniforms. Eldest brother Jerry played basketball from 1954-56, earned All-SEC honors and is a retired jersey honoree. Calvin played football from 1958-60, was a two-year All-SEC player, and is a retired jersey honoree. Billy was a football letterman in 1961.