MSU Great Clinton Jones Elected To College Football Hall Of Fame
Michigan State now has eight players in the College Football Hall of Fame.
On Friday, the Spartans' Clinton Jones, a two-time All American running back from the mid-'60s, was immortalized in the Hall.
“When I opened the box from the National Football Foundation and saw the football, I couldn’t hold back the tears of appreciation and gratitude for being given the privilege and honor of joining my brothers George (Webster), Bubba (Smith) and Gene (Washington) in the College Football Hall of Fame,” Jones said in an MSU press release.
“I imagined George and Bubba saying, ‘Clyde you finally made it, congratulations.’ Of course Gene and Pat Gallinagh will be as happy as Meadowlarks. That’s what makes this honor so special because all of my teammates were my heroes. To join Mickey (George Webster), Bubba and Gene in the Hall of Fame marks completion of the historical significance of the 1967 NFL Draft when the four of us from MSU were selected among the first eight picks.
Jones, a three-year letterman from 1964 to 1966 for legendary MSU head coach Duffy Daugherty, accounted for 2,549 career all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. He led the team in rushing and all-purpose yards in his final two seasons while helping the Spartans to a combined record of 19-1-1, including back-to-back Big Ten and national championships in '65 and ’66.
“When I opened the letter from (National Football Foundation) President Steven Hatchell, I lost it because I realized the significance and rarity of being inducted into this elite group. There are no words to describe my feelings; I’m simply overwhelmed. It’s rare to have played college football, but for me to have had the opportunity to play on a historical, ground-breaking team that brought so much diversity to NCAA football at a time when the country was going through so much negativity and social change really makes me so profoundly appreciative to have played a small part in it all.
“Today, my mission is as an ambassador, representing Michigan State University. Fifty years after my playing career, it’s exciting to be associated with the Spartan football program that Mark Dantonio has brought back to national prominence.”
More from an MSU press release:
Former Michigan State two-time All-American Clinton Jones is one of 15 players and two coaches named to the College Football Hall of Fame Friday, Jan. 9. National Football Foundation Chairman Archie Manning and ESPN studio host Rece Davis announced the 2015 Class at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas.
He made his presence known as a sophomore in 1964, finishing second on the team in rushing with 350 yards and four TDs.
As a junior in 1965, Jones earned first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association after rushing for 787 yards and 10 TDs. In addition, he was named recipient of the Joe Fogg Memorial Trophy, presented by the Cleveland Touchdown Club to the nation’s most outstanding college player. Jones also finished second on the team in receptions with 26 for 308 yards (11.8 avg.) and two scores. He ranked 13th nationally in scoring with 74 total points (12 TDs and one two-point conversion). In conference games, Jones led the Big Ten in scoring with 68 points (11 TDs and one two-point conversion) and finished second in rushing with 538 yards.
He recorded three 100-yard rushing games in 1965, including a season-best 132 yards on 16 carries in MSU’s 32-7 victory over Ohio State. On the second play from scrimmage against the Buckeyes, Jones scored on a spectacular 80-yard run and later caught a 12-yard TD pass. Three weeks later, he tied the then-Big Ten single-game record with four rushing TDs in a 35-0 win at Iowa. Jones rushed 20 times for 117 yards, including a 3-yard TD run, in MSU’s 12-3 victory at Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. In a 14-12 loss to fifth-ranked UCLA in the 1966 Rose Bowl, he picked up 113 yards on 20 attempts.
Each spring, Jones also distinguished himself as a hurdler on the track. As a sophomore in 1965, he placed third in the highs and fourth in the lows at the Big Ten indoor championships and took third in the conference outdoor meet. Jones earned All-America honors in 1965 as a member of the 440-yard relay. As a junior in 1966, he captured second in the Big Ten indoor highs and lows and ran a leg on MSU’s shuttle hurdle team that set the national mark of 57.4 at the Drake Relays.
As a senior co-captain in 1966, the 6-foot, 210-pound Jones again earned first-team All-Big Ten honors en route to being named a consensus first-team All-American and finishing sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting. Jones led the Spartans in rushing for the second year in a row, gaining 784 yards and scoring six rushing TDs. He led the Big Ten in rushing in league games, picking up 593 yards. Jones posted two 100-yard games in 1966, including a 129-yard effort on 19 carries in MSU’s 28-10 win over N.C. State in the season opener. In Week 8, he ran 21 times for a then-Big Ten single-game record 268 yards and three TDs in MSU’s 56-7 victory over Iowa. Jones scored on runs of 79, 70 and 2 yards against the Hawkeyes and was selected United Press International’s Midwest Back of the Week.
Daugherty repeatedly told reporters, “I wouldn’t trade Jones for any halfback in the country. He’s the greatest back at eluding and breaking tackles I have ever seen. He has remarkable balance, speed and power. Jones is also big, so he can run either around tacklers or over them, and that’s the same thing that made Jim Brown so great.”
The Cleveland, Ohio, native closed out his career as MSU’s second all-time leading rusher with 1,921 yards, trailing only Lynn Chandnois (2,103 career rushing yards). Today, Jones still ranks among the school’s all-time Top 20 in carries (18th with 396), rushing yards (18th) and rushing TDs (tied for 17th with 20). He also had 33 career receptions for 408 yards (12.4 avg.) and three scores.
“We had a family atmosphere at Michigan State. Duffy Daugherty had recruited a lot of talent, especially from the South, so it was a culture shock for many of the guys,” Jones said. “Duffy provided some direction, but for the most point, he left us alone; and for whatever reason, we came together as a team and really jelled. There was civil unrest and the country was in turmoil, but on the MSU campus, we took the off-the-field adversity and turned it into opportunity. Despite our uniqueness and different life experiences, we focused on each other and developed a special bond. It was more than about football.
“I wasn’t highly recruited coming out of (Cathedral Latin) high school. In fact, I didn’t become a first-string player until my senior year, and I spent only two-and-a-half games in the lineup before my season ended with a sprained ankle and broken hand. I was so disappointed, but I put all of my energy and effort into my studies and hurdles. At that point, I also became determined to make it as a football player in college or die trying.
“I didn’t want to let anyone at Michigan State down, so I left everything on the field,” Jones continued. “I really think my boxing (Golden Gloves) and track backgrounds helped me develop as a football player. With the help of my coaches and teammates, everything came together at MSU and I became a complete back.
“Jim Brown and Ernie Davis were my heroes growing up, so I dreamed the impossible. Michigan State provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime and I fulfilled my dreams. At MSU, I was surrounded by people that supported me and I developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime.”
Following his senior season, Jones participated in the Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and College All-Star Game. He rushed for 79 yards and a TD in the Hula Bowl.
Jones was selected No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1967 National Football League Draft (behind teammate Charles “Bubba” Smith, who went No. 1 to the Baltimore Colts). He spent seven seasons in the NFL, including six years in Minnesota (1967-72) and one season in San Diego (1973). His nine rushing TDs in 1970 ranked second in the league. As a pro, Jones accounted for 5,035 career all-purpose yards and 21 TDs, including 2,178 rushing yards and 20 scores.
In 2012, he was inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Jones becomes the eighth former Michigan State player to be selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, joining halfback John Pingel (inducted in 1968), tackle Don Coleman (1975), linebacker George Webster (1987), defensive end Bubba Smith (1988), safety Brad Van Pelt (2001), wide receiver Gene Washington (2011) and linebacker Percy Snow (2013). As MSU’s latest inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, his name will be added to Spartan Stadium’s “Ring of Fame” at the Sept. 12 game against Oregon (kickoff TBD).
Jones will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the NFF College Football Hall of Fame’s 58th Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 8 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City.