Heisman ’72 winner Unvaxxed: Fitness accelerated recovery from COVID-19


FILE – Johnny Rodgers, the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner, smiles and waves to a sympathizer after being pardoned for his felony conviction for robbing a gas station in 1970, at a state Pardon hearing on Thursday, November 14, 2013, in Lincoln, Neb. Rodgers, the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, is in an intensive care unit at Omaha Hospital with COVID-19. (AP Photo / Nati Harnik, file)


Nebraska footballer Johnny Rodgers, returning home after spending more than two weeks in hospital with COVID-19, said on Tuesday he believed his superior physical condition had helped him perform better than many 70-year-olds who contract the coronavirus.

The 1972 Heisman Trophy winner, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Omaha, admitted that he had not been vaccinated. He said he believed a device he had installed in his home that supposedly weakened viruses, as well as another type of air purification machine, offered him a measure of protection.

“I thought to myself that with all of this, I’m fine,” Rodgers said.

However, Rodgers said he now plans to get the shot once his doctors say he will be able to.

“At the time, I had it covered,” he said, referring to the equipment in his home. “I really wasn’t surrounded by a lot of people. It was just something unexpected – like being in closed premises for 10 hours at a time (while traveling) – that wasted my time.

“At that time, I wasn’t really worried because I was very healthy. I didn’t think I needed it. Now I think I really need it. More people need it than not.

Rodgers, nicknamed “The Jet”, grew up in Omaha, played on the Nebraska National Championship teams in 1970-71 and won the Heisman as a senior in 1972. He is well known for his punt return. electrifying for a touchdown against rival Oklahoma in 1971. He was also an All-American consensus his last two seasons. He was a first-round draft pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, but has played most of his professional career in Canada.

Rodgers said he believed he was infected while driving sick family members from Denver to Omaha last month.

Rodgers said he was hospitalized on Thanksgiving Day and was released last weekend. He also developed pneumonia. He said he had no underlying health issues and played racquetball four or five times a week.

“I didn’t watch any TV. I did not speak on the phone, ”he said. “The only thing I did was try to keep my breaths together to maintain my oxygen level so that I didn’t have to be assisted by the machines (breaths) that were there.”

Brief coughing fits interrupted Rodgers’ interview on Tuesday, and he said he still had a long way to go to recover.

He said he made rapid progress through his rehabilitation, which allowed him to be released from the hospital.

“They want you to stand up and do leg lifts, squats or arm lifts,” he said. “When you can’t make one, you’re sick. This is where I was. I started doing more than one. I was recovering. I was going twice as fast as I recovered based on my recoil. I recovered much faster than most people.


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