The All-RSS Team: Returner

Robin Washut, Senior Writer
Husker Online

There will always be endless debates over who are the greatest Nebraska football players of all time, so decided to let our members settle it for themselves.

By voting for the top Huskers at each position, we will assemble our very own All-RSS Team. Today we look at the final voting results for the kickoff and punt returners.


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1. Johnny Rodgers - 934 votes (33.0%)

All you have to do is go back and look at Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers' 72-yard weaving and darting punt return for a touchdown in Nebraska's 1971 win over Oklahoma in the "Game of the Century" to see why he was a near unanimous pick for first-team All-RSS return man.

While his accomplishments and accolades as arguably of the best wide receiver in school history certainly can't be ignored, Rodgers is almost known just as well for his game-changing ability as a returner.

He was most deadly as a punt returner, where he fielded 98 career punts for 1,515 yards and set an NCAA record with seven touchdowns. He also added 35 kickoff returns for 847 yards and a score.

The 1972 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion was so dynamic as a return specialist that there is now an award named after him, the Jet Award, given to the top returner in college football each season.


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2. DeJuan Groce - 734 votes (25.9%)

When it comes to Nebraska punt returners, only Rodgers stands ahead of DeJuan Groce in the school's all-time record books.

In 2002, Groce (1,218) joined Rodgers (1,515) as the only two Huskers ever to surpass 1,000 career punt return yards

Groce's senior season in '02 was definitely one to remember, as he set NU season records for punt returns (43), punt return yards 732, and punt return touchdowns (4).

His six career punt runbacks for scores rank second all-time behind Rodgers.

Groce also holds the school record with two punt return touchdowns in one game, when he took back scores from 83 and 72 yards against Troy State in 2002.

Groce was named first-team All-American at return specialist in '02


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3. Bobby Newcombe - 384 votes (13.6%)

Keeping with the theme of ranking this list by all-time production, Bobby Newcombe, who ranks third on Nebraska's career punt return yards (828) list behind Rodgers and Groce, comes in at No. 3.

A player of multiple skillsets, Newcombe (48 career returns) didn't have the same number of opportunities in the return game as guys like Rodgers (98) and Groce (78), but he definitely made the most of the chances he got.

Newcombe still holds the school record for average yards per return in a season at 20.33 (12 returns for 244 yards in 1997).

He also owns the second-longest punt return on NU's all-time list, when he broke off a 94-yard runback for a touchdown against Missouri in 2000.

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