Recognizing Johnny ``The Jet'' Rodgers

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 17, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BACON. Mr. Speaker, in honor of African American History Month, we recognize a leader who has helped people of all ages thrive in sports, education, and life. North Omaha's and Nebraska's Johnny ``the Jet'' Rodgers is more than a sports legend; he is a community champion.

Johnny became known as ``the Jet'' because of his speed and agility. Even in his teenage years, participating in football, track, and basketball, the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame described Johnny's performance as ``nothing short of legendary.'' He would go on to establish an incredible football career as a punt returner, pass receiver, and running back at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

On his way to winning the Heisman in 1972, Johnny set an all-purpose 5,586-yard NCAA record; 72 yards were attributed to a punt return during the ``Game of the Century'' between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 1971. Not only did this gain him national acclaim, but College Football News and former coach Tom Osborne would go on to recognize Johnny as one of the best kick returners in college football history. He would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame after a professional career in the NFL for the San Diego Chargers and the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes.

When he returned to his hometown, he began building a legacy as an entrepreneur and community leader. While mentoring and teaching life skills to young athletes, Johnny served as the President of the 100 Black Men of Omaha and began the prestigious ``Jet Award'' honoring the best return specialist in NCAA Division 1 college football, all while creating the Johnny Rodgers Career and Technical Scholarship--serving students from ages 18 to 62, emphasizing thevalue and accessibility in education.

Beyond his commitment to education is his belief in representation. Johnny and I have had the honor of working together to achieve one of the country's highest response rates to the Decennial U.S. Census. Johnny lent his time and community connections to advocate for a complete and detailed census where ``Everybody Counts.''

On and off the field, Johnny has continued to accelerate and elevate his community. We thank him for his dedication to his hometown and his willingness to lead. On behalf of our Omaha community, I thank my friend for his leadership and service to our community.