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Heisman winner Rodgers knows Husker tradition

November 11, 2012
By Cory Giger ( , The Altoona Mirror

LINCOLN, Neb. - Every Nebraska home game has been sold out for 50 years - since Nov. 3, 1962 - which Cornhuskers legend and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers says is a testament to how important the program is to the entire state.

"It's really based on the fact that this is our biggest show in the state," Rodgers said prior to Saturday's kickoff against Penn State. "It's almost a prestige-type thing to be able to attend, and I think now because of the allegiance of the fans, they want to make sure they keep that streak of sellouts."

The streak is now at 324 games at Memorial Stadium - which seats 81,091 and is being expanded by about 6,000 seats - and a big part of it has been that the fans have long been able to see quality football.

"We've had winning seasons consistently almost for 50 years," Rodgers said.

It wasn't always like that, however.

"It was pretty exciting when Bob Devaney came to town," Rodgers said of the legendary former Nebraska coach who won national titles in 1970 and '71.

"After the war in the '40s, we didn't win too many football games at all, and you could get tickets any time of the day or night," Rodgers noted. "But when they started winning, it was a whole other thing. We don't have a pro team in Nebraska, so this is the biggest thing really going on."

How tough is it for fans to get season tickets?

"They don't," Rodgers said with a laugh. "Somebody has to die, they'd be willed to you or something else. But you just can't get tickets unless you know somebody."

Rodgers, an electrifying and versatile receiver and return man who won the Heisman Trophy in 1972, still attends most Nebraska home games.

"It's just part of my history, and we've had a good history," he said.

The Cornhuskers' history was established in the old Big 8 Conference (now Big 12), but Nebraska is now in its second year in the Big Ten. The conference switch has been praised and welcomed by most, including Rodgers.

"There's a lot of prestige involved in being in the Big Ten, the oldest conference in the country," Rodgers said. "We get a lot more educational dollars, and we get to be on TV quite a bit more, which helps our recruiting across the country."

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