Johnny The Jet has his pardon. The Nebraska Board of Pardons granted it in a hearing on Thursday afternoon.
Johnny Rodgers is a Husker legend who had a blemish on his record for a 1970 gas station robbery that he calls a college prank. The 62-year-old Heisman Trophy winner says the crime has been hanging over him since his 1971 conviction. He was given two years of probation.
The State of Nebraska Board of Pardons heard Rodgers' application for a full pardon Thursday. His application came with letters of support from former Nebraska football coach and athletic director Tom Osborne and former Omaha mayor and congressman Hal Daub.
Rodgers told the board, "I'm seeking a pardon because this incident happened when I was 17. I had 10 minutes of insanity which has hurt me my whole life."
After taking a plea deal in 1971 that dropped an armed robbery charge to larceny and resulted in probation, not jail time, Rodgers went on to become famous. A 72-yard punt return gave the University of Nebraska a win over Oklahoma in what was later called the Game of the Century. The Huskers went on to win a national championship and The Jet took home the Heisman Trophy.
Governor Dave Heineman addressed the elephant in the room saying, “Let me ask the question that some Nebraskans are asking. Since you are famous and an All-American at the University of Nebraska, are you getting a special deal?”
"I'm meeting the standards,” Rodgers said, “I don't think there's anything special about what I'm requesting. It happened when I was a young man and now I'm an old man."
Attorney General Jon Bruning told Rodgers, "You've done a lot of good things in your life: your charity and kids. But in the end, you've had 10-years of a clean record and we need to treat similar people similarly whether they are widely known or not."
With that, Johnny Rodgers record in Nebraska was clean again.
He celebrated in the capitol rotunda with his mother and daughter and friends where he said, “I'm glad it's over. It's like a long punt return. You never know which way it's going to go."
The fight for Johnny Rodgers is not over. From here he's off to San Diego to clear a felon in possession of a gun from his record.
Before Rodgers made his plea to the governor's pardons board, 32 people were granted pardons. No one had been denied. These were Nebraskans who were convicted of burglary, assault and battery and drug charges but have since lived clean lives for more than 10-years. They too were pardoned.