June 14, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Former East Carolina University Assistant Football Coach Thomas "Rock" Roggeman died Monday afternoon in Chapel Hill after a year-long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 47 years old.
Roggeman was on medical leave from the university at the time of his death.
Roggeman, who joined former head coach Skip Holtz' staff at East Carolina in December, 2004, was in his fifth overall season as an assistant coach and third heading the program's defensive tackles before officially departing the program last Sept. 28 - two days after the Pirates' 19-14 victory over UCF.
He tutored a total of eight All-Conference USA selections and three league all-freshman team choices during his tenure with the Pirates, which also included a run of four consecutive bowl appearances and back-to-back league championships.
After working with the linebackers in 2005 and 2006, Roggeman moved to the interior of ECU's line and quickly developed Linval Joseph and Jay Ross into honor-winning performers. The duo opened a combined 51 of 56 contests the last two title-winning seasons, booked 35 tackles for lost yardage and posted 11.5 sacks.
Joseph, who was selected by the New York Giants in the second round of the 2010 National Football League draft after the completion of his junior season, was a two-time All-Conference USA performer who recorded 60 tackles in 2009 - a team-high 13.0 coming behind the line of scrimmage for lost yardage.
Ross earned All-Conference USA honors as a senior in 2009 after recording 47 tackles, 4.5 resulting in lost yardage. He closed out his career with a program-best 38 straight starts before signing a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints in April.
Prior to his appointment at ECU, Roggeman served as defensive line coach at Alabama State for three seasons beginning in 2002. He helped lead the Hornets to a 10-2 record and a Southwestern Athletic Conference title in 2004 and also played a key role in the performance of one of the top defenses on the entire NCAA Division I-AA level - earning top 10 national ranks in turnover margin (6th/+1.17), turnovers forced (7th/34), fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (7th/9) and rushing defense (9th/103.0 ypg.).
From 1998 to 2001, Roggeman worked at SWAC-member Alabama A&M, handling the Bulldogs' defensive line during the first two years before earning a promotion from head coach Ron Cooper to defensive coordinator prior to the 2000 season, a move which netted unprecedented results.
He built and guided one of the top defensive units on all levels of college football history in 2000, topping I-AA nationally in rushing defense (39.7 ypg/NCAA record), fewest yards per carry (1.3 ypc), fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (5) and sacks (60 for -365 yards). In addition, the Bulldogs stood eighth nationally in total defense (275.6 ypg).
Roggeman enhanced his reputation as a noted run-stopper the following season, as Alabama A&M finished third nationally in rushing defense (80.8 ypg) and fourth in fewest yards per carry (2.4 ypc).
Roggeman also worked on Cooper's staff at Eastern Michigan (1993-94), where he served as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, and at Louisville (1995-97).
During his three-year tenure with the Cardinals, Roggeman helped mold a defensive unit which led the nation in turnovers forced (45/1995) and earned other top 10 Division I-A statistical standings in turnover ratio (2nd/1995), scoring defense (6th/1995), total defense (4th/1996), rushing defense (4th/1996) and pass efficiency defense (9th/1996).
Roggeman began his full-time coaching career as a defensive line coach and strength and conditioning coordinator at Murray State in 1987 before moving to Nevada-Las Vegas three years later to handle the Rebels' defensive line efforts.
He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Notre Dame in 1985 after playing on Fighting Irish squads which competed in the 1983 Liberty Bowl and 1984 Aloha Bowl. Roggeman was cited as a 1984 Monogram winner before accepting a two-year position as a graduate assistant under head coaches Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz.
Roggeman was a Parade All-America selection as a linebacker at Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Ariz., while also earning membership into the National Honor Society. His father, Thomas Sr., is an Indiana Football Hall of Fame inductee after an illustrious coaching career at the high school and collegiate level.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced when completed.