Just 5-foot-9 and 173 pounds, the receiver/return specialist out of Omaha Tech packed a big wallop in his Husker football career. He contributed heavily to national championship teams in 1970 and ’71, won the 1972 Heisman Trophy and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
And Rodgers, nicknamed "The Jet," did it with pizazz. Even though his dip-then-dart 72-yard punt return touchdown was the first score in the 1971 "Game of the Century" win at Oklahoma, it still rates as one of the iconic moments in school and college football history.
He had a 77-yard punt return touchdown that helped trigger an Orange Bowl rout of Alabama that secured Nebraska’s second straight national title.
And though it wasn’t a national championship game, NU coaches let Rodgers — a Nebraska 100 selection — showcase all of his Heisman talents in the Orange Bowl win against Notre Dame following the 1972 season. He played some I-back, running for three scores, and caught a touchdown pass. He also threw a TD pass.
A first-round NFL draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, Rodgers chose instead to start his professional career in the Canadian Football League. He starred for Montreal from 1973 through ’76, and helped the Alouettes win the 1974 Grey Cup. He signed with the Chargers in 1977, but played only 17 games before a knee injury ended his career.
Rodgers, an Omaha businessman, is now involved with the Jet Award, given annually since 2011 to college football’s best kick return specialist.
These are the players who built Nebraska football.
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