Neb. receiver approaching Johnny Rodgers' mark Print
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Tuesday, 21 October 2008 21:25
NCAAF Headline News

 LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -Nate Swift has never met Johnny Rodgers and really doesn't know much about him, but he's certainly getting an education this week.
Swift is nearing Rodgers' career receptions record at Nebraska, which has stood for 36 years.
``It took him long enough,'' Rodgers joked Tuesday. ``I wish he would hurry up.''
Swift is finding out that Rodgers' electrifying playmaking ability, not to mention the Heisman Trophy he won, has made him an enduring figure in Cornhusker lore.
But for all Rodgers accomplished on Nebraska's national championship teams in 1970 and '71 and during his Heisman season in 1972, his number of receptions - 143 - isn't overly impressive.
That it's taken this long for someone to come along and break it isn't surprising, though. Rodgers played in a balanced pro-style offense under Bob Devaney. And passes were much more rare during Nebraska's triple-option seasons of the 1980s and '90s under Tom Osborne and Frank Solich.
h to get a guy who would get over 100 catches in his career, obviously,'' Swift said. ``To see how it's changed at Nebraska with the passing offense the last five years, they see you need that type of offense now to really get the score up there.''
Swift, who has 136 career catches, needs eight to break the record. He could do it this week against Baylor or, more likely, next week at Oklahoma.
He also has an outside chance to pass Rodgers' record of 2,479 yards receiving. Swift has 2,021 and would need to average 92 yards over the next five games.
``I don't like talking about breaking records, chasing people, because that's not what I'm about,'' Swift said. ``I want to get that win and do what's best for the team.''
But if he does break one or both of Rodgers' receiving records?
``It's going to be a great honor just to be listed up there with a name like that,'' Swift said.
Rodgers remains visible around the program. He lives in his hometown of Omaha, where he's a local celebrity and pitchman for everything from Lasik eye surgery to cocktail wieners.
He's become one of Swift's biggest fans, and he said he hopes to meet him this week.
``I'm certainly cheering for him to break my record because I always want the standards high,'' Rodgers said. ``Then someone can come and pursue his just like he's pursued mine. It's good for the game and good for the program.''
oe Ganz said he's going to do all he can to make sure Swift breaks one or both.
Swift's value, Ganz said, goes beyond catching passes. He touted Swift's blocking ability, noting that he leads all receivers in knockdowns, and his willingness to serve as a decoy.
Swift's grunt work should be rewarded, Ganz said.
``He's mentally tough enough to do whatever it takes to win,'' Ganz said. ``That's always something he's proud of. He's not the fastest, not the biggest and not the strongest. But he's my favorite target.''
Swift shares another bond with Rodgers.
``He has some punt return expertise,'' Rodgers said. ``It's not easy to have the nerve to have 11 guys pounding down on you.''
Swift ran a punt back 88 yards against Missouri two weeks ago for Nebraska's first return for a touchdown since 2002, and the fourth-longest in program history.
Of course, Rodgers is the most prolific punt return man at Nebraska. He owns the second-longest return (92 yards) and the most famous - his 72-yarder in the 35-31 win over Oklahoma in the 1971 ``Game of the Century.''
Swift said he's watched the film of that return and is amazed how Rodgers made it through Oklahoma's coverage.
``It seems like all 11 guys missed,'' he said.
rown his way, against Pittsburgh in 2005, his feet got tangled with those of a defender and the defender ended up with a broken ankle.
``That was a tough first ball thrown to me,'' he said.
The first of his 136 catches came on a short pass from Zac Taylor the following week against Iowa State.
Though Swift is about to enter the Nebraska record book ahead of Rodgers, he remains largely anonymous in a conference full of talented receivers. He doesn't rank among the leaders in the Big 12, and no one probably would mention him in the same breath as Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree or Missouri's Jeremy Maclin.
``I wouldn't trade him for any one of those guys,'' Ganz said.
 

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