FAYETTEVILLE – Former University of Arkansas wide receiver/punt returner Joe Adams was named the inaugural winner of the Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers National College Football Return Specialist Award on Thursday.
"I’m honored to be the first recipient of the Johnny ‘The Jet’ Rodgers National College Football Return Specialist Award," Adams said. "First of all, I want to thank my mom because she helped me get where I am today. Also, I’d like to thank Johnny for choosing me for this award and my coaches at Arkansas for putting me in a position to succeed. This award would not have been possible without the other guys on the punt return unit who made key blocks during my returns. I’m looking forward to going to Omaha to accept this award on behalf of our program."
Adams was a consensus All-American and the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011 after tying the SEC single-season record and leading the NCAA with four punt return touchdowns. The Little Rock, Ark., native led the SEC and ranked second in the NCAA with an average of 16.89 yards per punt return, the fourth-highest single-season average in school history. He also tied the SEC single-game record with two punt return touchdowns in the season opener against Missouri State and broke Arkansas’ single-game record with 174 punt return yards against the Bears.
In his career, Adams scored five touchdowns on punt returns, the third-highest total in SEC history. He also averaged 15.83 yards per punt return throughout his career, which ranks second all-time at Arkansas.
"I would like to congratulate Joe Adams on being named the top return specialist in the nation by the Johnny Rodgers Foundation," UA football head coach Bobby Petrino said. "His returns provided momentum for our team and created amazing memories for Razorback fans for years to come. Joe is truly a special player whose great toughness and tremendous athletic ability make him a deserving recipient of this award."
The award is named after Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Rodgers. Rodgers, who won the 1972 Heisman Trophy and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000, finished his career holding NCAA records for punt return touchdowns (seven) and total kick return touchdowns (nine). He also broke 41 school records in his three seasons at Nebraska and helped the Cornhuskers to consecutive national titles in 1970 and 1971 and Big Eight crowns from 1970-72.
Adams was selected the winner over three other finalists, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, T.J. Thorpe from North Carolina and Texas A&M’s Dustin Harris. An awards banquet in honor of Adams is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Anthony’s Steakhouse, 7220 F Street in Omaha, Neb. The presenting sponsor for the inaugural event is TD Ameritrade, Inc.