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Nebraska icon, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers in ICU with COVID-19

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Nebraska football icon and College Football Hall of Fame member Johnny Rodgers is hospitalized in an intensive care unit with COVID-19. 

Rodgers' longtime business partner Denny Drake told the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday that Rodgers was admitted to the Nebraska Medical Center on Thanksgiving. After his condition worsened, Rodgers was admitted to the ICU on Nov. 30. He's developed pneumonia since being admitted and remains hospitalized, according to Drake.

Johnny Rodgers
Johnny Rodgers has been hospitalized since Thanksgiving. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Drake: Rodgers has taken 'a turn toward recovery'

Drake told the World-Herald he spoke with Rodgers on Saturday and that his condition has improved.

“He was pretty weak until late yesterday,” Drake told the World-Herald. “He called me this morning, and his voice sounded good. He said he had taken a turn toward recovery and was feeling much better.”

Rodgers, 70, posted a message of thanks to his family and friends Facebook on Nov. 28, three days after Drake says he was admitted to the hospital:

There were no further public updates on Rodgers' condition as of Monday evening. 

Rodgers a college football legend

Nicknamed "The Jet," Rodgers starred as an electric dual running and receiving threat and return man for Nebraska from 1970-72. In three seasons, he tallied 3,515 yards and 41 touchdowns from scrimmage while averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 17.4 yards per reception. 

His Nebraska teams won national championships in 1970 and 1971, and he won the school's first Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1972. He was a consensus All-American in 1971 and 1972. His 72-yard punt return that helped No. 1 Nebraska to a 35-31 victory over rival and No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971 remains one of college football's enduring moments. 

The San Diego Chargers selected Rodgers with the No. 25 pick in the 1973 NFL draft, but he opted instead to sign with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. He played four seasons in the CFL before eventually joining the Chargers for two seasons starting in 1977. 

According to the World-Herald, Rodgers has worked as an entrepreneur, community activist and author since his retirement from professional football. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

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