About Us

The First National Return Specialist Award is Born




Johnny "THE JET" Rodgers

Athlete, scholar, author, community activist, entrepreneur and Jewel’s dad… anyway you read it Johnny Rodgers is far more than just football.

As a player with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, Johnny Rodgers served as a punt return specialist, pass receiver and running back. Rodgers broke virtually every offensive team record during his tenure. He was twice named to the College Football All American Team, won the Walter Camp Award and the Heisman Trophy in 1972 for most outstanding player in college football.

Honors recognize Johnny’s athletic ability, but he is also proud of degrees in broadcast journalism and advertising from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2005 he was named the University of Nebraska’s Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2006 Johnny authored his first book; “An Era of Greatness: Coach Bob Devaney’s Final Four Seasons in University of Nebraska Football (1969-1972),” a “must read” for all “Husker” fans. Johnny’s second book titled; “10 Minutes Of Insanity” is a story of Johnny’s first 25 years and an inspiration for all.


William A. Reed – "Coach"

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Coach William Reed moved to Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1970’s and coincidentally became the head football coach of Monroe Junior High
School to begin his successful coaching career. During that four year period at MJH, his team lost just one football game. In 1976 he moved over to Benson High
School. In his first year there he was selected “Teacher of the Year.”

In 1979 Coach Reed became the head football and track coach at Omaha Central High School, bringing those programs into state and national prominence, and winning the Nebraska State Class A Football Championship in 1984. In 1993 Coach Reed wrote seven books on teaching kids the game of golf. This guided him to create Omaha’s first Youth Golf Academy, where he taught over 5,000 kids over a ten year period.

He has most recently written and published a book, The Four Sides which chronicles his life at Omaha Central High School from 1979-1991. Coach Reed has been recognized for being the first black head football coach, in the history of the state of Nebraska, at a predominantly white high school.

He is currently one of the co-founders and a board member of the prestigious Jet Award honoring the top NCAA outstanding college football kick and punt returner.


Denny Drake

President, CEO of Performance Solutions Worldwide, Denny and Johnny Rodgers formed a business partnership starting in 1996 that has become  more than just business. They have become very close personal friends as well. Together, they have created various marketing, promotional and strategic partnership programs, that have spanned across 14 countries.

In 2011, when Johnny said; “It’s time to start a program to honor the top kick off and punt return specialists in all of college football each year,” Denny knew he wanted to be involved, but didn’t understand at that time the full scope of the opportunity. Now, in the 10th year of this incredible program, The Jet Award has honored some of the greatest college football players in history. As shown on this website.

“I am deeply honored and also inspired at what we have accomplished together in such a short period of time. Not only have we honored some of the greatest players, but we have also helped hundreds of people get scholarships to Metropolitan Community College. We are all looking into the future with excitement .” – Denny Drake

Mike’l Severe – Executive Director

Mike’l Severe worked for nearly 20 years as a TV sports and news reporter, from New Orleans to Albuquerque to Omaha. 

In 2004 Severe started in radio co-hosting “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” afternoons in Omaha. After more than decade working at the Zone Mike’l helped start The Bottom Line radio show at the Omaha World Herald. He has also hosted “Big Red Wrap-up” for the past five seasons, providing a weekly recap of each Husker football game. 
In total Mike’l has worked in the media for nearly 30 years. In July of 2023 Mike’l was named the Executive Director of the Jet Award Foundation.

Board of Directors

Csm Patrick Z. Alston – Chairman

Patrick Alston is a consultant with Burlington Capital Corporation and he is employed as a Senior Fellow for the National Defense University’s Keystone program. Alston is a native of Columbus, Georgia. He is a graduate of Columbus High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army…

Vince Leisey – President

Vince Leisey, CEO and Inspirational Speaker, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate, leads an organization that is on the cutting edge of a shifting real estate industry. He encourages a culture that attracts all generations and has pioneered a “mega office” that people want to spend time in…

Ruth Mccully – Secretary

Ruth McCully is an Account and Marketing Executive at NRG Media. Ruth has over 30 years of experience working in the broadcast media industry at NRG Media, Waitt Radio, Journal Broadcast Group, and Cox Communications.  Ruth prides herself on building strategic partnerships with clients in developing successful….

Dick Zacharia – Treasurer

Zachariah has been a prominent figure in Omaha County circles and a strong advocate for Omaha Central. After graduating from Penn’s Wharton School of Business he retired to Omaha and in 1969 joined the firm now called Frankel Zachariah. He served as managing partner for 25 years and…

Curt Wagner – Board Member

Managing Partner of TruAdvantage Healthcare, a full-service healthcare and benefits broker located in Omaha, Nebraska. Wagner has been in marketing and sales with Summit Media Omaha, Cox Communications, Omaha World Herald, St Louis Post Dispatch and The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune…

Joni Flynn – Board Member

Ms. Flynn started her career in Chicago, Illinois at American Honda Motor Company after graduating from the University of Iowa. Ms. Flynn spent 24 years at Honda holding several positions in Sales, Marketing and Business Development in several markets across the nation. During that time, Ms. Flynn served on the…

Rick Grubaugh – Board Member

Rick Grubaugh began his career in education teaching and coaching at Madison and Genoa High Schools before becoming Athletic Director at Columbus Scotus. Grubaugh coached State Championships in football…

David Nessleroad – Board Member

Coca-Cola Executive for over 30 years that led a brand-new Route-to-Market for The Coca-Cola Company’s Minute Maid Juice Team that would allow the distribution of our perishable products to all Small Store/Drug/Value outlets Nationally…

Jim Siemonsma – Board Member

:::Bio Pending:::

Rob Trebilcock – Board Member

Rob Trebilcock is the Senior manager, Public affairs for Cox communications. In his current role he takes pride in partnering with local organizations to help them fulfill their mission while at the same time aligning Cox’s external strategy with their nonprofit partners…

Join Us in Breaking the Cycle of Poverty by Empowering Students through Education!


At the Jet Award Foundation, we are committed to making a lasting impact on the lives of individuals in our community. Through our scholarship program, we aim to provide opportunities for low-income students to pursue trade programs at Metropolitan Community College. By equipping them with the necessary skills and education, we are helping them secure high-paying jobs and break the cycle of generational poverty.

The Challenge:

In Omaha, it is estimated that some 57,642 out of 476,512 people live in poverty. This represents a significant portion of our community that lacks access to quality education and opportunities for upward mobility. We believe that education is the key to transforming lives and creating a brighter future for those who need it the most.

Our Solution:

Since 2018, The Jet Award Foundation has supported around 250 students through the Johnny Rodgers Career and Technical scholarship program. So far nearly 100 of those students have successfully earned degrees and certifications in various fields, including information technology, nursing, criminal justice, and business management. We are proud to have contributed to their achievements and witnessed their growth as they
pursue fulfilling careers. Currently more than 140 students are in the JR Scholarship
program at MCC.

The Impact:

Our scholarship recipients are not just statistics; they are individuals with unique stories and aspirations. The average age of a student receiving our scholarship is 30.6 years old, highlighting the opportunity we provide for individuals seeking a second chance at education. Moreover, 60% of our students are female, empowering women to excel in traditionally male-dominated industries. Additionally, 45% of our students are people of color, promoting inclusivity and diversity within the workforce.

Call to Action:

We invite you to join us in our mission to end generational poverty and empower deserving individuals in our community. Your support can make a significant difference in the lives of these students, giving them the chance to pursue their dreams and create a better future for themselves and their families.

  1. Donate: Your financial contribution will directly support scholarships for low-income students, enabling them to access quality education and secure high-paying jobs. Every donation, no matter the size, has a meaningful impact.
  2. Volunteer: Share your expertise and time by becoming a mentor or offering career guidance to our scholarship recipients. Your guidance can provide invaluable insights and help shape their professional journeys.
  3. Spread the Word: Help us raise awareness about the importance of education and the opportunities we provide. Share our mission and success stories with your network, encouraging others to join our cause.

Together, we can break the cycle of poverty, empower individuals, and build a stronger,more prosperous community. Join The Jet Award Foundation today and be a catalyst for change. Contact us at Thejetawardfoundation@gmail.com to learn more about how you can get involved.

Remember, every student we empower today becomes a success story of tomorrow.

Thank you for your support!


We Couldn't Do It Without You!


DeJuan Groce

DeJuan Anthony Groce (born February 17, 1980) is an American former professional American football player who was a cornerback in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He earned first-team All-American honors in 2002, and set or tied four school records as well as an NCAA record. Groce was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 2003 NFL Draft. He also played for the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Toronto Argonauts.

Zachariah Branch

Zachariah Branch (born March 29, 2004)[1] is an American football wide receiver and return specialist for the USC Trojans.

Branch was born on March 29, 2004, the youngest of two sons to Sheve and Renee Branch.[2] His father is a sports performance coach.[2] Branch and his brother grew up attending USC football games.[2]

Branch was raised in Las Vegas and attended Bishop Gorman High School.[3] He was one of the top players in the 2023 college football recruiting class, ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPN and No. 9 by 247Sports. He was the top wide receiver in the class.[4][5]

Joe Adams

Joe “747” Adams (born April 5, 1958) is a former Canadian football quarterback who played three seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Rough Riders during 1982 to 1984. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the twelfth round of the 1981 NFL Draft, but remained a practice squad member during his one year with the team.[1] He played college football at Tennessee State University.[2] Adams garnered the nickname “747” in reference to the Boeing 747 aircraft.[3]

Tavon Austin

Tavon Wesley Austin (born March 15, 1990) is an American football wide receiver who is a free agent. He played college football at West Virginia where he received All-American honors twice. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Ty Montgomery

Ty Anthony Montgomery II (born January 22, 1993) is an American football wide receiver for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Stanford. Montgomery was drafted as a wide receiver by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In 2016, he changed positions to running back.

Tyler Lockett

Tyler Deron Lockett (born September 28, 1992) is an American football wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played college football at Kansas State. In college, he set numerous Kansas State football records and was both a 2011 All-American (as a kickoff returner) and 2014 College Football All-America Team consensus All-American selection (as a punt returner). In college, he totaled 6,586 career all-purpose yards and 35 touchdowns, including 3,710 yards and 29 touchdowns as a receiver.

Christian McCaffrey

Christian Jackson McCaffrey (born June 7, 1996),[1] also known by his initials CMC,[2] is an American football running back for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Stanford and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers eighth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. As a sophomore in 2015, McCaffrey was named AP College Football Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He holds the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season, with 3,864. McCaffrey holds numerous NFL and Panthers franchise records and is one of three players ever to record 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, doing so in 2019.

Dante Pettis

Dante Garrison Pettis[1] (born October 23, 1995) is an American football wide receiver who is a free agent. He played college football at Washington.

Savon Scarver

Savon Scarver (born December 23, 1998) is an gridiron football wide receiver for the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played college football at Utah State.

Joe Reed

Joseph William Reed (born January 4, 1998) is an American football wide receiver and return specialist for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Virginia.

Avery Williams

Avery Williams (born July 15, 1998) is an American football running back for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Boise State.

Marcus Jones

Marcus Elliot Jones (born October 22, 1998) is an American football cornerback for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Troy and Houston and was drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Billy Cannon

William Abb Cannon Sr. (August 2, 1937[1] – May 20, 2018) was an American football halfback, fullback and tight end who played professionally in the American Football League (AFL) and the National Football League (NFL). He attended Louisiana State University (LSU), where he played college football as a halfback, return specialist, and safety for the LSU Tigers. At LSU, Cannon was twice named a unanimous All-American, helped the 1958 LSU team win a national championship, and received the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding college player in 1959. His punt return against Ole Miss on Halloween night in 1959 is considered by fans and sportswriters to be one of the most famous plays in LSU sports history.

Pat Fischer

Patrick Fischer (born January 2, 1940) is an American former professional football player who was a cornerback[1] in the National Football League (NFL) for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1961 to 1967, and the Washington Redskins from 1968 to 1977.

Paul Allen

Williams was born to Pam Veasey and Marvin Williams on July 15, 1998. He grew up in Pasadena, California and originally attended Saint Francis High School before transferring to JSerra Catholic High School before his senior year.[1] As a senior, Williams was named Trinity League co-Most Valuable Player after rushing for 1,175 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense at running back and was also an All-Area selection at defensive back. He received no scholarship offers to play college football and enrolled at Boise State after being offered to join the team as a preferred walk-on.[

Joe Washington

Joe Dan Washington Jr (born September 24, 1953) is an American former professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins, and Atlanta Falcons.

Rick Upchurch

Richard Upchurch (born May 20, 1952) is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL). He played his entire career with the Denver Broncos from 1975 to 1983. One of 29 individuals to be selected to multiple All-Decade teams, Upchurch is noted as one of the greatest return specialists of all time.[1]

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

William Arthur Johnson (born January 27, 1952), better known as BillyWhite ShoesJohnson, is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL) from 1974 through 1988. A 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time NFL Team selection, Johnson was one of the first players to display elaborate celebrations in the end zone.

Dante Hall

Damieon Dante Hall (born September 20, 1978) is a former American football wide receiver and return specialist who played nine seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He is nicknamed the “Human Joystick” and the “X-Factor“.[1] Hall was a fifth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M University by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2000 NFL Draft. Hall played for the Chiefs for seven years before being traded to the St. Louis Rams in 2007.[2] Hall was ranked the 10th greatest return specialist in NFL history on NFL Network‘s NFL Top 10 Return Aces.

Mel Gray

Melvin Dean Gray (born September 29, 1948) is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver for the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) from 1971 to 1982. He attended college at the University of Missouri.

Cliff Branch

Clifford Branch Jr. (August 1, 1948 – August 3, 2019) was an American professional football wide receiver who played with the Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders during his entire 14-year National Football League (NFL) career. He won three NFL championships with the Raiders in Super Bowl XI, XV and XVIII. He was selected by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL Draft after playing college football for the Colorado Buffaloes. He was posthumously elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022.

Mike Garrett

A two time All-American, Garrett set numerous NCAA, Pac-8 Conference and USC records in his career by amassing a then unheard of 3,221 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. Garrett also led the nation in rushing in 1965 with 267 carries for 1,440 yards. He also caught 36 passes, returned 43 punts, returned 30 kickoffs and threw 6 passes. Two of his passes went for touchdowns. Garrett was awarded the 1965 W. J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. He won the Heisman Trophy after the 1965 regular season.[3] In 1985, he was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Ted Ginn Jr.

Ginn played for his father, Ted Ginn Sr., in high school at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio, where he played defensive back, quarterback, and wide receiver for the football team.[1] Ginn was selected as the 2004 USA Today Defensive Player of the Year, a 2004 Parade All-American, and named the 2004 SuperPrep National Defensive Player of the Year. He also participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a member of the East team, along with former Dolphins teammates Ryan Baker and Chad Henne,[2] and was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

Aaron Lockett

Aaron DaRon Lockett[1] (born September 6, 1978) is a former American football and Canadian football wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, and in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Ottawa Renegades and BC Lions. He played college football at Kansas State University where he set school and Big 12 Conference football and track and field records. His brother Kevin Lockett and nephew Tyler Lockett also played wide receiver at Kansas State where they also set records.

Adoree' Jackson

Adoree’ K. Jackson (born September 18, 1995) is an American football cornerback and return specialist for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at USC and was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Derius Davis

Davis grew up in St. Francisville, Louisiana and attended West Feliciana High School, where he helped lead the Saints to a 3A state championship as a senior in 2017[1] and also starred in track, winning the 200-meter dash at the state meet.[2]

Rated as a 3-star prospect, Davis chose to play his college football at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas over a scholarship offer from Tennessee.[3] He enrolled at TCU in the summer of 2018.

Terry Metcalf

Terrance Randolph Metcalf (born September 24, 1951) is an American former professional football player who was a running back for six seasons in the National Football League (NFL), five of them with the St. Louis Cardinals and one with the Washington Redskins