Electrifying. This is the word most often used to describe the greatest player in the University of Nebraska’s history; whether running, receiving or returning kicks, Johnny Rodgers possessed the ability to make something special happen every time he touched the ball. An outstanding talent at Omaha Technical High School, where he was All-City and All-State, Rodgers began a his career as a Husker in 1970, and for three years, everyone in the stadium was afraid to leave their seats because they might miss something spectacular by “The Jet”.
An All-Big 8 performer as a sophomore, Rogers helped guide Nebraska to their first ever National Championship with over 1500 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns. In 1971, Nebraska repeated as National Champions, and Rodgers put together an All-American effort, accumulating 17 touchdowns and culminating the year with one of the greatest plays in annals of college football, when he returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma in the “Game of the Century”. Johnny Rogers concluded his Nebraska legacy as the most honored Cornhusker of all time, when in 1972 he became Nebraska’s first Heisman trophy winner, won the Walter Camp Award, was the UPI Offensive Player of the Year and was again a first-team All-American selection, amassing nearly 6,000 total yards for his career and 46 touchdowns.
Rogers currently holds the NCAA records for punt and kick returns for touchdowns and has or shares 41 school records. After his brilliant career at Nebraska, Rogers went on to star in the Canadian Football League, earning Most Outstanding Rookie in 1973 and going on to be an All-Pro in the CFL in 1973-76. Rogers was the Most Valuable Player runner-up in 1974 when his team, the Montreal Allouettes, won the Canadian championship, The Grey Cup.
In 1977, Rogers signed with the San Diego Chargers, but was limited during his NFL career due to injuries that eventually ended his playing days. The turn of the century saw a new wave of honors for Rogers, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000, was named Most Valuable Player in the history of the Big 8 Conference, was voted Nebraska’s “Player of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, named the 44th best player of all time by College Football News and the 25th Greatest Player of All-Time by ESPN. Johnny Rogers now runs a successful real estate business and mentors young athletes who have dropped out of school.