Shatel: Pardon would help Johnny Rodgers find end zone - Omaha.com
Published Monday, November 4, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 4:55 pm
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES
Shatel: Pardon would help Johnny Rodgers find end zone

Johnny Rodgers' life has been a lot like that famous punt return from yesteryear. Darting and dodging through situations, changing direction, eluding tacklers, looking for daylight.

A pardon from the state of Nebraska might be that end zone.

I hope he finds it. Rodgers has bounced from career to career in Omaha. But he hasn't been a bad guy or a criminal. He's been a source of inspiration and support in the north Omaha community, where he still lives. His enthusiasm for life and the next adventure is an inspiration.

Rodgers' story, reported wonderfully by The World-Herald's Joe Duggan, reminds me of the speech given by Morgan Freeman's character in the movie “Shawshank Redemption.” Freeman's character tells the parole board about the young man he used to be, and how he would like to go back and talk to that young man, talk some sense into him.

Rodgers could use one more block from the Pardons Board. He should get it.

» They'll be taking away my old-school Big Eight Card soon. In trying to list the great moments in Nebraska football history, I can't believe I forgot the Billy Sims fumble in the 1978 Oklahoma game. Considering the magnitude of that game and the opponent — Barry Switzer has long said that was his best team at OU — that has to be the No. 1 moment at Memorial Stadium. It happened near the south end zone, same as Eric Crouch and Jordan Westerkamp. And Josh Brown's kick to beat Colorado in 2000.

» Asked about his stone-faced reaction immediately after the Hail Mary, Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini said he was waiting for a review. That's what replay has done. Imagine if there had been replay in 1978. Hold the celebration, folks, let's wait 10 minutes and see if Sims' knee was down. It almost ruins the moment. Almost.

» Ameer Abdullah is the best running back in the Big Ten, and now he has the ranking (first, 138.5 yards per game) to show it. The junior is the most fun of any player to watch now, whether he's setting up a big moment with a first-down run or celebrating by running in circles after the winning play. Now give him more. Twenty-nine pass attempts seems a bit much to put on Tommy Armstrong right now.

» Of course Doug McDermott is a preseason All-American. The question isn't whether McDermott will belong on the Big East courts. He will. The question is how physical Big East coaches will play the star, with the new hands-off rules. And how much “protection” Big East officials will give him.

» I love Joe Moglia, but I was skeptical about how much success the former Nighthawks coach would have at Coastal Carolina. If he keeps it up, he'll get an FBS job. Maybe a good one.

» UNO hockey has had big wins before this time of year, but none of them seemed bigger than the overtime sweep at Denver last weekend. Long way to go, but in terms of confidence, RPI (Pairwise) and, yes, attendance, it was right on time. Now here come North Dakota (swept by St. Cloud last week) and Michigan to town. Game on.

» Remember Nate “The Skate” Archibald? How about Josh “The Skate” Archibald? Seems more fitting for hockey.

» The Chiefs are 9-0. That's all that matters. If the NFL was run by a BCS computer, they'd be in trouble.

» Florida State, Oregon. Oregon, Florida State. That's the national title game I'd like to see. If we had a four-team playoff this year, that would be the No 2. vs. No. 3 seed semifinal game. Why can't we have that this year again?

» Taylor Martinez and several other injured Nebraska players watched the Northwestern game from the top row of the press box, among the writers. They must have really done something bad to deserve that kind of punishment.

» That Big Ten championship has to be particularly sweet for Nebraska women's soccer coach John Walker, who has been through a bunch here. Talk about a throwback. Walker started the program at NU, arriving here back in 1994. There aren't many coaches left from 1994. Only three coaches have been at Nebraska longer: softball coach Rhonda Revelle (1993), women's gymnastics coach Dan Kendig (1993) and, of course, track coach Gary Pepin (1981), the dean of Husker coaches.

» Lost in the sports week was the appearance of PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem last week in Omaha, having a sit-down with the money people of Omaha. It was an extremely rare thing for Finchem to travel to a tour stop to drum up support and it may have been the first time he'd ever done that for a Web.com Tour event. The former Cox Classic is still in limbo, however. First things first: Do they have a golf course? I'm hearing a public course could be an option. Johnny Goodman? Tiburon?

» You don't want to pay college athletes a stipend? OK. But let them keep the football when they catch a Hail Mary pass to win a game.

» God bless Lambert Bartak, who gave us the sweet soundtrack of summer all those years. The man donated his organ to T.D. Ameritrade a few years ago, making sure the College World Series will always have a heartbeat. The ball yards in heaven sound a lot better today.

» One more and I'm outta here: I discovered a cool, little corner of Nebraska last Friday: Camp Fontanelle, just outside Fremont. I was there for the rehearsal dinner of my niece, Monica, who married Andy Freeborn in an outdoor ceremony at picturesque Fontanelle the next day. I wasn't able to make the ceremony because of a little football game in Lincoln. Andy is a good guy, so he will be forgiven. Folks at the wedding had a hard time following the game, but word has it, they could hear the roar all the way to Fremont when Westerkamp made the catch.

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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