Heisman Trophy Winner in ICU With COVID-19

A Heisman Trophy winner was in an Omaha, Nebraska hospital intensive care unit Monday due to the COVID-19. According to the Associated Press, Johnny Rodgers, former University of Nebraska star who won the Heisman in 1972, was hospitalized Thanksgiving morning with the virus at Nebraska Medical Center. He developed pneumonia but improved after a few days. However, things got worse for Rodgers last week and was then placed in the ICU, according to his business partner Denny Drake. 

"He was pretty weak until late yesterday," Drake told the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday. "He called me this morning, and his voice sounded good. He said he had taken a turn toward recovery and was feeling much better." On Nov. 28, Rodgers posted a message to his family and friends on Facebook. 

"I am thankful for my children and family, and thankful for the many friends and facebook friends that I have," Rodgers wrote. "Thank you for the years, and years of support and showing me you care. Many blessings to all of you and your family.  Inspirational words... In our lives, we will face many kinds of adversaries. In our flesh, we might feel that there is no hope, that no one cares about us. But these are moments to keep praying, to 'keep alert and be thankful.' Yes, to thank God, confident that He hears our prayers and that we can trust Him."

Rodgers, 70, played multiple positions during his time with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He won the Heisman after recording 348 rushing yards, 1,013 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns. Rodgers also helped the Cornhuskers win national championships in 1970 and 1971 and was named a consensus All-American in 1971 and 1972. Following his college career, Rodgers was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Chargers in 1973 but decided to play for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL because they offered him more money. He spent four seasons with Montreal before joining the NFL in 1977. Multiple injuries prevented Rodgers from having a successful NFL career and would play 17 games in two seasons with the Chargers. 


After football, Rodgers worked as an entrepreneur, community activist and author. In 2000, Rodgers was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2019, ESPN selected Rodgers to its All-Time All-America team for college football's 150th anniversary.