LINCOLN — Johnny Rodgers could elude tacklers like a magician but says he has never been able to fully put behind him a 1971 felony robbery conviction for stealing $91 from a Lincoln gas station.
“It's something that's hanging out there,” said Rodgers, now a 62-year-old father of five.
On Tuesday, the Nebraska Board of Pardons took the first step toward clearing his record, voting unanimously to hold a hearing on Nov. 14 to consider granting Rodgers a pardon from his 1970 crime.
The action was expected. The three members of the Pardons Board — Gov. Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning and Secretary of State John Gale — made no comments immediately following the vote.
Six people had submitted letters supporting a pardons hearing for Rodgers, who now runs a foundation that raises money for scholarships for youths in north Omaha. They included former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne and University of Nebraska Regent and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub.
Rodgers, the former Husker and Heisman Trophy winner, served two years of probation for the robbery.
Rodgers didn't attend Tuesday's hearing. He said in an interview that he once was detained at the Canadian border, and the robbery conviction came up when he applied for a real estate license.
In a telephone interview, he said he hoped obtaining a pardon would inspire others, including the kids he counsels, to correct the mistakes they make in life.
“I do a lot of work with kids,” Rodgers said. “I need to take care of my business just like I want them to take care of theirs.”
He called the 1970 robbery “just warped thinking” and said it occurred while he was driving around with two other students on the last day of his freshman year in college.
Rodgers' record since then indicates two offenses: a felon in possession of a firearm conviction in California in 1987 and a first-offense driving under the influence conviction in 1997.