Alabama defenders surrounded Johnny Rodgers in Miami, but he still got away for a 77-yard TD in the 1972 Orange Bowl.
Photo by None

Johnny the Jet Was Dust in the Wind in the 1970s

By NU Athletic Communications
Randy York's N-Sider

Official Blog of the Huskers

One thing about the Lincoln Journal-Star’s series featuring a meaningful touchdown for every yard on a football field: It’s hard to limit Johnny Rodgers to just one highlight.

Fortunately, Brian Christopherson wrote about two famous Rodgers’ punt returns – the one where Johnny the Jet tore ‘em loose from their shoes with a 72-yarder in the 35-31 Nebraska Game of the Century win at Oklahoma and the other, a 77-yard burst that humbled the legendary Bear Bryant in the Huskers’ 38-6 romp over the Crimson Tide in a national championship Orange Bowl six weeks later.

Rodgers’ return on the last play of the first quarter gave Nebraska a 14-0 lead over ‘Bama and triggered a surge that saw the Huskers score four touchdowns in an 8-minute span. It was the most lopsided loss Bryant ever experienced at Alabama, and you wonder how Tide fans absorbed the embarrassment.

Once the natives recovered three years later, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded Sweet Home Alabama, so everyone could say I Will Survive. We’ve all run out of adjectives to describe the impact Rodgers had on college football in the early ‘70s, so the N-Sider has decided to use songs from that decade to tell the story.

Johnny the Jet, after all, was our Stairway To Heaven. With him on the field, we were always Stayin’ Alive because we could Imagine him breaking one whenever someone, even the Bear, chose to kick his way.

Johnny Would Look at the End Zone and Promise Everyone 'I'll Be There'

When that happened, Johnny would look at the end zone and say I’ll Be There because everyone on the field and in the stands knew he was a one-man Band On The Run.

By the time defenders dug their cleats in to tackle him, he was showing them It’s Too Late and to Dream On because You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet except, perhaps, Johnny’s Dust In The Wind.

Yes, the Jet was Born To Run, and his favorite part of every gallop was whenever he reached the point where he could say I Can See Clearly Now and then add That’s The Way I Like It.

With Johnny, the ‘70s were truly Seasons In The Sun. He was so explosive that he’d tell teammates to Lean On Me and warn opponents that We Will Rock You.

No wonder the first two years of the ‘70s ended with We Are The Champions playing in the background. Thankfully, we still have Time In A Bottle so David Bowie could sing Heroes and Fame and Elton John could promote Rocket Man. I think we were all Hooked On A Feeling, but it’s time to Let It Be and serve up the other eight pieces of American Pie.

So bye-bye and please enjoy the latest reads, courtesy of the Journal-Star:

79 yards: A Fullman’s Return

78 Yards: Bell beats the blitz

77 Yards: JR Humbles a Bear

76 Yards: Fischer stuns Bevo

75 Yards: Frazier flees Gators

74 Yards: Asante lookin’ good

73 Yards: Ken Clark cuts back

72 Yards: ‘Jet’ tears ‘em loose

71 Yards: Walker is a Runner

70 Yards: A real Fryarcracker

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include current residence)

Randy’s N-Sider Blog Archive

Randy’s N-Sider Column Archive

MORE NEWS

More News Sponsor - First National Bank

TICKETS

Tickets Sponsor - StubHub