1969 Clinton Jones
(Game Worn)




If one's high school career was an absolute predictor for collegiate and professional football success, little would have been expected of Clinton Jones. In an era where NCAA regulations limit the number of annual scholarships, Clinton Jones would not have been a scholarship football player. Jones, a quiet, shy young man from the blue-collar east side of Cleveland converted to Catholicism and attended Cathedral Latin High School. An absolute whiz at track, he went out for football in ninth grade, did not participate as a sophomore, was a back-up player who scored but one touchdown as a junior, and finally, as a senior starter, scored two touchdowns in the three and-a-half games he played before losing the remainder of his final season to injury. However, Jones could run and was a physical specimen at 6' and 200 pounds, setting a National High School record in the hurdles. At a time where the number of football scholarships was limited only by an institution's financial ability to fund them, many of the larger schools could and often did take a chance on an athletic youngster whom they believed could be developed as a football player. Jones' track ability made him one of these athletes but the only interested party of note was Nebraska. Giving up his dream to run track at Notre Dame or Villanova in his quest to emulate his track idol Frank Budd, a 'Nova superstar, Jones was approached by Woody Hayes at the Ohio State High School Track Championships and told there was a football scholarship awaiting him. The University Of Detroit had told Jones that although they did not have a track team, they would begin one and build around him if he committed to them, but with plans to drop football, he would not have the opportunity to play that sport. Jones had made a commitment to himself to become a football player, a response to his inability to fulfill his own expectations in high school. "It became a very spiritual thing, a challenge for my life that I became obsessed with." Jones accepted a scholarship to Michigan State, quickly bonded with freshmen team coach Wayne Fontes who would later become the Detroit Lions head coach, and not wanting to disappoint this coach who seemed to understand his sensitive nature, worked harder than any athlete on campus to improve. As a member of the 1965 National Championship team, Jones was an integral cog in the attack. He ran for 787 yards on 165 carries and his eighty-yard burst against Ohio State was the longest run in the conference that season. He was also an effective receiver, and his eleven TD's and sixty-eight points led the Big Ten in scoring. As co-captain of the Spartan team, his senior season produced a 9-0-1 record, number-two national ranking after the controversial 10-10 tie against Notre Dame, and consensus All American honors.

Clinton Jones as with most players started his career wearing the Riddell model RK2 with two bar, but as time progress so did technology and he ended his career using the TK suspension helmet with much more facial protection.  The above 1969 TK helmet was used by Clinton for many years and adorned several styles of masks, even some hand made models.  Clinton wanted that extra face mask protection but needed the visual clarity that only an open eyed version could provide.  Cutting off the lower half of a mid 60s JOP as Cookie Gilchrest did got him going but eventually realized that may have been short sited and used the complete "unmodified" JOP from then on.

Jones and teammate Gene Washington were both drafted as number-one picks by the Minnesota Vikings and both starred for the team. Jones was a versatile runner, receiver, and kick return man for the Vikings from '67 through 1972. He was an all-purpose back, reliable and tough who never had huge statistics due to the team's philosophy of utilizing all of their talented runners and receivers yet his explosive speed made him an all-the-way threat. 1971 was his best season, rushing for 675 yards but an injury-plagued '72 made him expendable and he finished his career with the Chargers in 1973. As he did at Michigan State, Jones became an integral component of a team that went to the top of the mountain, a part of the solid offensive attack that propelled the Vikings into the Super Bowl and consecutive division championships. The reserved, religious Jones was always a positive and contributing member of the team and community and remains an understated name on the list of Vikings from their greatest era. 

Special thanks to John and Jose.