Johnny Rodgers

In 1973, the Montreal Alouettes were looking for a big name to help fill the "Big O", built for the 1972 Olympics.  Montreal also wanted a big name to compete with the Argos who were signing big name college players like Joe Theisman and Leon McQuay.  Montreal came up with the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner and Nebraska star, Johnny Rodgers.  Rodgers was an All-Canadian in his frist t hree season (1973, 1974 and 1975) and an East All-Star in 1976.  In his rookie season, Rodgers caught 41 passes in 14 games to lead the East in receiving.  You could argue that Rodgers should not have been an All-Canadian that seasonj based on that stat.  Even adjusting for the shorter schedule, that would have put Rodgers only fifth in the West behing George McGowen (81), Tom Forzani (62), Rudy Linterman (60) and Tom Campana (57), but it was Rodgers and McGowen who got the nod for All-Canadian at wide receiver.  To make the case for Rodger's selection being more than publicity hype, you can look at a couple of other stats.  First, Rodgers had more yards than Forzani and Linterman thanks to his excellent 20.5 yard per catch average.  Second, the other thing that Rodgers did, was to help define a new offensive position.  Into the early 70s, most teams were still using three running backs (two Halfbacks and a Fullback) and three receivers - the Split end and Tight end playing on the line and the Flanker playing back of the line of scrimmage.  Rodgers was one of the first (if not hte very first) player to be called a Wingback. Teams moved to have only two running backs (a Fullback and a Halfback), while the third running back position morphed into the Wingback.  Wingbacks still were used to run the ball, but their primary offensive function was as a pass receiver.  In his rookie season in 1973, besides his 41 catches for 841 yards, Rodgers also had 55 carries for another 303 yards for a total 1144 yards, pushing him ahead of Campana in total yards   Rodgers was not really a wide receiver, but the All-Star voting categories had yet to catch up with reality and voters needed to recognize Rodger's contribution somehow and so he ended up as an All-Canadian ahead of a true wide receiver like Tom Forzani of Calgary. A similar situation held in 1974 as Rodgers had his best season of his four year career offensively with 60 catches for 1024 yards.  The 60 ctaches was one less than Tony Gabriel who led the East in receiving. Gabriel was named the CFL All-Star at Tight End, while Rodgers and Rhome Nixon of Ottawa were the All-Canadian wide receivers.  Tom Forzani of Calgary had the same number of catches as Rodgers, but the 402 yards rushing by Rodgers on 87 car ries gave him ironically enough the nod over Forzani at wide receiver.  Note that in 1974, the East also switched to a 16 game schedule, so comparing stats between divisions became much fairer.  In 1975, Rodgers was once more an All-Canadian, though this time as a running back.  Rodgers was really no more of a running back than he had been a wide receiver, but there was still no Wingback category for All-Star voting and at lest the Wingback spot had evolved from a running back spot, so putting Rodgers on the All-Star teams was a bit more logical.  Rodgers had 40 catches for 849 yards that season to go with 293 yards on 54 carries for 1142 yards total.  One other interesting change in Rodger'scontribution came from the fact that the CFL moved to allow blocking on punts in 1975.  Prior to this, speedsters like Rodgers were not used to return punts for fear of them being injured on the "suicide squad".  Rodgers had always contributed on kickoff returns, but with the rule change, he was also used on punt returns for the first time in 1975 and led the East with 50 returns for 912 yards, which is a quite nice 15.2 yard average and he also had a longest punt return of 102 yards and took two back for touchdowns.  In 1976, Rodgers was once more named an East All-Star, though once more at wide receiver.  Rodgers had 45 catches for 749 yards, but his rushing totals dropped significantly to only 20 carries for 50 yards.  The Wingback position which Rodgers had helped pioneer turned out to be a short lived transitional phenomenon, as the Wingback became a Slotback, with an almost exclusive focus on receiving and not rushing.  Rodgers really had already become pretty much a slotback in his final season in 1976 as evidenced by his drop in rushing attempts.  When it came to the All-Star voting in 1976, Rodgers had to be judged as a wide receiver and his 45 catches couldn't compete with Rhett Dawson (65) and George McGowen (60) who snagged the tow All-Canadian spots at wide receiver. It was only in 1977, the year after Rodgers left the CFL, that the CFL All-Star selections introduced Slotback as one of the official positions. After the 1976, season, Rodgers went south to try his luck in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.  Rodgers played two seasons for the Chargers.

Complete NFL Stats for Johnny Rodgers

Johnny Rodgers at Nebraska

Article on Johnny Rodgers


Games Played and Receiving
Team Year GP Rec Yds Avg Long TD
MON 1973 14 41 841 20.5 72 7
MON 1974 16 60 1024 17.1 70 7
MON 1975 15 40 849 21.2 70 8
MON 1976 14 45 749 16.6 55 6
Year Team TC Yds Avg TD Long
1973 MON 55 303 5.5 0 58
1974 MON 87 402 4.6 4 53
1975 MON 54 293 5.4 2 38
1976 MON 20 50 2.5 1 41
Year Team F FL OFR
1973 MON 4 3 0
1974 MON 3 2 0
1975 MON 3 1 0
1976 MON 3 2 1
Kickoff Returns
Year Team KOR Yds Avg TD Long
1973 MON 16 455 28.4 0 66
1974 MON 10 291 29.1 0 66
1975 MON 13 380 29.2 0 50
1976 MON 17 444 26.1 0 43
Punt Returns
Year Team PR Yds Avg TD Long
1973 MON 0 0 0 0 0
1974 MON 0 0 0 0 0
1975 MON 60 912 15.2 2 101
1976 MON 75 931 12.4 0 53
Year Team PA PC % Yds TD Int
1973 MON 0 0 0 0 0 0
1974 MON 1 0 0 0 0 0
1975 MON 5 0 0 0 0 1
1976 MON 0 0 0 0 0 0

1992 Jogo - the missing years

Johnny Rodgers at Nebraska