Johnny Rodgers – Genuine Superstar

Orange Bowl 1973

Nebraska wingback Johnny R Superstar. Still to this very day, perhaps the most electrifying college player to have ever trotted out onto the field and gotten his hands on the ole’ pigskin at the NCAA level. Some most fortunate people were lucky enough to have actually seen JOHNNY RODGERS play Division I-A football — the majority must be satisfied to absorb the legend and forever remain in awe of the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner.

In an era where speedy I-formation tailbacks and wishbone halfbacks completely dominated the college football landscape, the versatile Rodgers was an integral cog in the unbeaten University of Nebraska machine that won back-to-back NCAA national championship titles in both 1970 and 1971. The unstoppable Cornhuskers won a combined 24 of 25 contests with just one tie as the all-purpose wingback from Omaha tallied eleven touchdowns as a sophomore and then an eye-opening eighteen more as a junior under coach Bob Devaney. During his senior year, Nebraska slipped to a mark of nine wins and two losses with one tie but the highly explosive Rodgers still rightfully collected the premier award for the nation’s top college football player while finishing with impressive totals of 2,101 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns on the season.

In what remains THE most sensational bowl game performance from that season’s Heisman Trophy winner, the irrepressible Rogers closed out his sparkling collegiate career by accounting for a whopping five touchdowns against Notre Dame in the 1973 Orange Bowl on New Year’s. Shifted from wingback to I-formation tailback for his final game with Nebraska as a result of cunning strategy, Rodgers responded by rushing for 85 yards on 17 carries and three scores while also finding the end zone as a receiver on a 54-yard passing play. Additionally, after deploying wide as a flanker to the left of Nebraska’s southpaw quarterback David Humm, Johnny R Superstar took a backward pass before heaving a long bomb downfield to Cornhusker split end Frosty Anderson for yet another spectacular touchdown.

All this in less than three quarters, of course …

Nebraska Cornhuskers’ consensus All-America wingback JOHNNY RODGERS (20) successfully fields a punt for the visitors against the perennial arch-rival Sooners from the University of Oklahoma and embarks on what will become a memorable 77-yard return for the opening touchdown of the legendary Big Eight Conference clash that was dubbed “The Game Of The Century” and contested at Owen Field in Norman on November 25, 1971.

1970 … 39 att, 219 yrd, 5.6 avg, 2 TD
1971 … 40 att, 269 yrd, 6.7 avg, 2 TD
1972 … 73 att, 348 yrd, 4.8 avg, 10 TD

1970 … 1 att, 0 comp, 0 yrd, 0 TD, 0 int
1971 … 1 att, 0 comp, 0 yrd, 0 TD, 0 int
1972 … 1 att, 1 comp, 52 yrd, 1 TD, 0 int

1970 … 39 rec, 710 yrd, 18.2 avg, 7 TD
1971 … 57 rec, 956 yrd, 16.8 avg, 11 TD
1972 … 58 rec, 1013 yrd, 17.5 avg, 9 TD

Punt Returns
1970 … 27 ret, 352 yrd, 13.0 avg, 2 TD
1971 … 39 ret, 684 yrd, 17.4 avg, 4 TD
1972 … 40 ret, 615 yrd, 12.9 avg, 2 TD

Kick Returns
1970 … 19 ret, 393 yrd, 20.7 avg, 0 TD
1971 … 10 ret, 304 yrd, 30.4 avg, 1 TD
1972 ….. 9 ret, 125 yrd, 21.7 avg, 0 TD

November 18, 1972 … Nebraska wingback JOHNNY RODGERS (20) sprints down the sidelines at the snowy Memorial Stadium in Lincoln and eludes all Kansas State players in pursuit on his way to a then-NCAA record eighth career punt return for touchdown.


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