NFF College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Clinton Jones
ASN will profile all 17 new members in advance of the Dec. 8 NFF awards dinner in New York City.
Halfback Clinton Jones was part of a trail-blazing class at Michigan State that lifted the football program to soaring heights in the mid 1960s under Hall of Fame Coach Duffy Daugherty.
With Jones’ induction into the Hall in 2015, Michigan State’s Class of 1966 becomes the only fourth in NFF history–and first since Boston College’s Class of 1940—to have at least four players inducted into the Hall. Jones’ teammates on the Spartan’s unbeaten 1966 team – Texans Bubba Smith, Gene Washington and George Webster—all preceded him into the Hall. Michigan State’s 1966 class is the first in college football from which four African-Americans have been inducted into the Hall.
“To me Michigan State was paradise where I found my brothers and Duffy was a great mentor,” said Jones, who was from Cleveland, Ohio. “We were a diverse team, ethnically and culturally. We really became a band of brothers. We accepted each others’ personalities. It was very extraordinary.”
Because his Hall of Fame teammates were shunned by segregated Southern schools, they became part of Daugherty’s “Underground Railroad” springing up from Texas and other parts of the South that helped make the Spartans a national power. Posting a 19-1-1 record during the 1965-66 seasons, they collected two Big Ten titles, a Rose Bowl victory and two split national titles. The most historic game during those seasons was the 10-10 tie against No. 1 Notre Dame in 1966 in East Lansing, a contest in which Jones had an integral part and still has a keen recollection.
“These were like two professional teams playing,” Jones said of the matchup of the country’s top two teams. “That’s when the leather came together in that game. Certainly, that was the 'Game of the Century.' If either one of us had won, it would not be what it is today.”
Jones remembers that as “one of the most intense, hard-fought games I had played in my life.” He recalls hitting Notre Dame’s Hall of Famer Alan Page in the kidney and feeling like he hit a tree. He also made a hit on the Irish’ Hall of Famer Jim Lynch and “knocked him upside down, and he wound up on his head. That was in Sports Illustrated in a picture.” Jones said making a good block in that game was like scoring a touchdown.
He led Michigan State in rushing both his junior and senior seasons and finished his college career as the school’s leading rusher with 1,921 yards. Daugherty was quoted as saying about Jones, also an All-American sprinter, at the time: “He’s the greatest back at eluding and breaking tackles I have ever seen. He has remarkable balance, speed and power.” Jones set the Big Ten single-game rushing record at the time with 268 yards against Iowa during his senior season.
Selected No. 2 overall in the 1967 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Jones played all but one of his seven NFL seasons in Minnesota and accounted for more than 5,000 all-purpose yards as professional. Jones and his wife Rosielee live in the Los Angeles area. Jones, who received a doctorate of chiropractic from the Cleveland Chiropractic College in 1979, currently owns and operates a wellness and sports rehabilitation center in Lake Balboa, Calif.