For the singer-songwriter, see Johnny Rodgers (singer).
Johnny Rodgers
No. 20     
Personal information
Date of birth: (1951-07-05) July 5, 1951 (age 68)
Place of birth: Omaha, Nebraska
Career information
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
Roster status: Retired
Career highlights and awards
  • N/A
College Football Hall of Fame

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

College careerEdit

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.[1]

In his three years with the Cornhuskers, the versatile Rodgers established an all-purpose NCAA yardage record of 5,586.[1] 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 (NCAA record at the time) and one kickoff for a touchdown in his college career.[1]

Rodgers was, at one time, convicted of a gas station robbery while he was a student at the University of Nebraska in 1970. He is the only Heisman winner who had a then-present felony conviction before receiving the award.[2] He was pardoned by the Nebraska Board of Pardons, and his conviction was vacated, on November 14, 2013. [3]

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.[1]

  • 1970: 39 carries for 219 yards with 4 TD. 39 catches for 710 yards with 7 TD.[4]
  • 1971: 40 carries for 269 yards with 2 TD. 57 catches for 956 yards with 11 TD.[5]
  • 1972: 73 carries for 348 yards with 10 TD. 58 catches for 1013 yards with 9 TD.[6]

Professional careerEdit

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, Rodgers 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), was either a CFL or Eastern all-star each season, and helped lead his team to a Grey Cup championship in 1974.

In 1977, Rodgers returned to the United States, signing with the Chargers. Rodgers signed a $925,000-plus contract with the San Diego 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.

Career regular season statistics Edit

Pro Statistics Receiving Rushing Punt Returns
Year Team GP Rec Yards Y/R Lg TD RushesYdsAve.LgTDReturnsYdsAveLgTD
1973 Montreal Alouettes 14 41 841 20.5 72 7553035.4580-----
1974 Montreal Alouettes 16 60 1024 17.1 70 7874024.6534-----
1975 Montreal Alouettes 15 40 849 21.2 70 8542935.43826091215.21012
1976 Montreal Alouettes 14 45 749 16.6 55 620502.54117593112.5530
1977 San Diego Chargers 11 12 187 15.6 43 034414.73301515810.5520
1978 San Diego Chargers 6 5 47 9.4 12 0155.045011888.0150
CFL Totals 59 186 3463 18.6 72 2821611385.3587135184313.71012


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.[7] 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.[8]

In 1999 Rodgers was selected as a starting receiver to the Walter Camp Football Foundation College Football All Century Team. Other receivers selected 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.[9]

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.

Johnny Rodgers also remains a legend north of the border in Montreal. The Alouettes honored him with a special homecoming on September 11, 2011, 35 years since he last wore a Larks uniform.[10] He was greeted with a standing ovation.[11]

Personal lifeEdit

Rodgers was reported to have become a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji, head of the Divine Light Mission, in 1974.[12]

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.[7]

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.


External linksEdit

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