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 Bryantin 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. 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’sToo 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: