1955 Stan Jones
Stan Jones reminds us that an athlete can attain the highest awards in his or her chosen sport yet remain relatively underappreciated or noted by all but his teammates and peers. How one understates the accomplishments of a football player who is in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, College Football Hall Of Fame, and the Halls Of Fame of his college, the University of Maryland, and state as a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall Of Fame is astounding. Known as unfailingly tough, durable, quick, and having earned the moniker as “the strongest man in football” during his playing days certainly should have kept Jones in the memories of all who are fans of the sport.
If there was one continuous overriding prejudice that athletic coaches espoused in the 1940s and ‘50s, it was the shibboleth against the use of weight training. Myths of induced muscle-boundness, narcissism, loss of speed, and entry to forbidden social circles abounded yet a 140 pound high school freshman saw only the benefits of lifting weights. Young Stan Jones lived in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania and with a distance of less than twenty-five miles from his home to the famed York Barbell Club, the training center for the United States Olympic Weightlifting Team, he had early exposure to proper training methods. As a powerful 200 pound senior, he entered the University of Maryland and made an immediate impact, continuing his detailed and advanced conditioning program with results that exceeded all but his own expectations. At Maryland he stood out as a 6’1”, 252 pound two-way tackle to the extent that the Chicago Bears chose him as a future pick after his junior season, in the fifth round of the 1953 draft. Their reward was to welcome Jones to camp for the ’54 season after he completed his collegiate career as a Consensus All American, the winner of the Knute Rockne Memorial Award then given to the nation’s outstanding lineman, and the leader of Maryland’s National Championship team.
It would come as a surprise to most that Jones was not overly excited about playing professional football. The era featured low to modest salaries and a level of respect far below that of the college game. He was ready to begin a career as a teacher, one he did in fact pursue for many off-seasons in the Washington D.C. area. Jones had said, “I wasn’t looking all that forward to pro ball, actually I was hoping that I would pass my flight physical and be playing football for Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C. But I flunked the physical and so I started looking for alternative things to do and then figured I might just play pro football.” He was taken with the “enthusiastic, loyal” fans the Bears had and “once I’d made my mind up to play in the pros I got very excited about it.” That excitement, commitment to his weight training program, and dedication to mastering his craft had him starting at offensive tackle as a rookie. When moved to guard in 1955, he went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and was All Pro in 1955, ’56, ’59, and ’60. When needed, he would fill in at defensive tackle and was one of the Bears best players in 1962 when he played offensive guard and defensive tackle full time. Jones noted that he decided to retire after the ’62 season due to the travel between Chicago and Washington D.C. where he maintained his home and was a full time teacher in the off-seasons. After Head Coach George Halas hired George Allen as the Bears’ defensive coach for 1963, Jones was convinced to return as a full time defensive tackle. Controlling the opponents’ run game while Doug Atkins and Ed O’Bradovich rushed the passer, the Bears had the NFL’s best defense, yielding but seven rushing touchdowns for the season and 10.3 points per game, and defeated the Giants for the 1963 Championship, a game that remains Jones’ “greatest pro football thrill.”
Jones played through 1965 and asked the Bears to trade him to the
Redskins so he could play closer to home. He spent the ’66 season with the
Redskins as their starting right defensive tackle, showing he had plenty of
football left in him but in December when the season ended, he was asked by
former Maryland teammate William “Whitey” Dovell to join the Denver Broncos
staff as their defensive line coach. He did this and doubled his work by
directing their first strength training program, purchasing weights at yard
sales to provide a team facility. He was with the Broncos from ’67 through 1971
and followed Lou Saban and the staff to the Bills for four years before
returning to the Broncos and staying there as defensive line coach from 1976
through 1987. In ’88 he decided to try “something different” and became the
Browns Strength and Conditioning Coach but missed coaching football and joined
the Patriots for two seasons directing the defensive front. He retired but
missed coaching enough to work with the Scottish Claymores of The World League
of American Football (NFL Europe) in 1998. Jones remained in excellent physical
condition up until his death in 2010 and was recognized for his accomplishments
with entry to both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.