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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnny Rodgers
Date of birth: July 5, 1951 (1951-07-05) (age 58)
Place of birth: United States Omaha, Nebraska
Career information
Position(s): Wing Back
College: Nebraska
NFL Draft: 1973 / Round: 1/ Pick 25
 As player:
Montreal Alouettes (CFL)
San Diego Chargers
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star: 1973
Awards: 1972 Heisman Trophy
1972 Walter Camp Award
1972 UPI Offensive Player of the Year
1973 CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award
1973-1975 All Canadian all star
1974 Grey Cup champion
1974-1975 Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy (East MVP)
Playing stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Johnny Steven Rodgers (born July 5, 1951 in Omaha, Nebraska) was an American college football player voted the University of Nebraska's "Player of the Century" and the winner of the 1972 Heisman Trophy.


College career

Nicknamed "The Jet" for his rapid acceleration and speed on the field, Rodgers was voted high school athlete of the year as a player for Omaha's Tech High.

As a player with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, Rodgers served as a punt return specialist, pass receiver, and running back. Rodgers broke virtually every offensive team record, was twice named to the College Football All-America Team and won the Walter Camp Award and the Heisman Trophy in 1972 for most outstanding player in college football in the United States.

In his three years with the Cornhuskers, the versatile Rodgers established an all-purpose NCAA yardage record of 5,586. Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who served as Nebraska's offensive coordinator in the early 1970s, wrote in his 1985 book More Than Winning that Rodgers had the greatest ability to return punts of any player he ever saw. Likewise, College Football News has described him as "the greatest kick returner in college football history." Rodgers returned seven punts for touchdowns in his college career, a feat that stood as the NCAA record for decades.

In 1971, in what has become known as college football's "Game of the Century," Rodgers returned a punt 72 yards to score the first touchdown which set the tone for his team's 35-31 victory over the University of Oklahoma Sooners. ESPN describes Rodgers' performance as "unforgettable." However, some observers consider his greatest single performance to be in the 1973 (post-1972 season) Orange Bowl when he led his team to a 40-6 victory over the University of Notre Dame. Rodgers ran for three touchdowns, caught a 50-yard pass for another touchdown, and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to a teammate. He did all this before leaving the game with 21 minutes still to play.

Professional career

Although a 1973 first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, Rodgers signed a lucrative contract to play for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League where he was affectionately known as the "ordinary superstar" (a nickname he coined.) Always a fan favorite, he won the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award in 1973. In his four years with the Alouettes, Rodgers won the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy twice (Eastern division MVP and CFL runner-up) and "All-Canadian" all star honors and helped lead his team to a Grey Cup championship in 1974.

In 1977, Rodgers returned to the United States, signing with the Chargers. Hamstring injuries kept him out of the game for most of his first NFL season and the following year a freak knee injury sustained during team practice ended his career after only 17 NFL games.


In 1999 Rodgers was selected to the Nebraska All-Century Football Team via fan poll and named to the All-Century Nebraska football team by Gannett News Service. In 2000 he was voted the University of Nebraska's "Player of the Century" by Sports Illustrated. In 2002 he was named to the Athlon Sports Nebraska All-Time Team. He is one of only sixteen Cornhuskers to have his jersey retired by the team.

In 1999 Rodgers was selected as a receiver by Sports Illustrated in their "NCAA Football All-Century Team". Other receivers selected were Jerry Rice, Mike Ditka, Pat Richter, Tim Brown, Raghib Ismail, Don Hutson, Bennie Oosterbaan, Howard Twilley, Ted Kwalick, Anthony Carter, Keith Jackson and Desmond Howard. Rodgers was one of six Nebraska Cornhuskers on this All-Century Team 85 man roster; the others being Rich Glover, Dave Rimington, Dean Steinkuhler, Tommie Frazier and Aaron Taylor.

In 1999 Rodgers was selected as a starting receiver to the Walter Camp Football Foundation College Football All Century Team. Other receivers selcted were Fred Biletnikoff, Tim Brown, Bernie Oosterbaan, Larry Kelley, Raghib Ismail, Don Hutson, Howard Twilley and Keith Jackson. Rodgers was one of six Nebraska Cornhuskers selected to this 83 man roster; the others being Rimington, Steinkuhler, Will Shields, Frazier and Taylor.

On the College Football News list of the 100 Greatest Players of All-Time, Johnny Rodgers was ranked #44. In 2007, he was ranked #23 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list. In 2000 Johnny Rodgers was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and was also voted the "Most Valuable Player" in the history of the Big Eight Conference.

Personal life

Rodgers was reported to have become a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji, head of the Divine Light Mission, in 1974.[1]

Today, Rodgers is a businessman in Omaha, Nebraska where he operates a sports marketing company and bedding products manufacturer. He also works with his alma mater to encourage athletes who dropped out of school to return and complete their educations.

Rodgers has also authored a book entitled An Era of Greatness about the University of Nebraska football team during his playing days.

In 2007 Rodgers was a brief partner in a sports bar located in midtown Omaha bearing his name. In less than one year the partnership fell apart and dueling lawsuits ensued.

Johnny is currently creating a mentoring program for children with other football and sport professionals.


  1. ^ "Rodgers Follows Guru", Associated Press, Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, January 23, 1976

External links

Preceded by
Pat Sullivan
Heisman Trophy Winner
Succeeded by
John Cappelletti

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