(Clint Jones photos courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Talk of Fame Network
This year’s draft was special, and not because the first two picks were quarterbacks. No, it was because it marked the 50th anniversary of the NFL and AFL first holding a combined draft.
You can look it up. The first was 1967 when the then-Baltimore Colts made defensive lineman Bubba Smith the first pick and Minnesota followed with running back Clint Jones with the second. Smith and Jones not only were part of an undefeated Michigan State team in 1966 but headlined an extraordinary draft where four Spartans were among the first eight choices.
Smith died in 2011, so the Talk of Fame Network reached out to Jones, 70, to get his thoughts on that draft and how a team that had eight players chosen in 1967 and another six in 1968 could have been tied in 1966 by Notre Dame (10-10) in a game where Irish running back, Nick Eddy, didn’t play and quarterback Terry Hanratty was knocked out in the first quarter.
“That’s a good question,” said Jones. “Some things are not meant to be. But I’ll tell you what: Had it not been a tie it wouldn’t have been immortalized like it has. You find it very difficult to remember who were national champions in any year … except maybe last year. But there’s something about that … (it) was like a paradigm shift in consciousness … and in sports … and in the NCAA.
“Everybody remembers it, and it was something that was seen not only in the (continental) United States but in Hawaii. It was seen overseas, I think in Europe and in Vietnam … an internationally televised game … and that was a first. (Plus, it was) the first time they had sideline cameras.
“There were a lot of firsts about that 1966 team. A lot of them that a lot of people don’t know about. That’s one of those things in history that happen. It’s not a planned thing.”
(Clint Jones photo courtesy of Michigan State University)
Jonesspent six seasons with Minnesota before finishing his career in San Diego. He was sixth in the 1966 voting for the Heisman Trophy, the second straight season Michigan State was the collegiate football champion, and last year was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
With those credentials, it only makes sense to ask which running back … from any era … he would draft first if he was a GM. So we did.
“From any era?” he said. “Wow. That’s a tough question. So many great ones. Ernie Davis. Barry Sanders. Jim Brown. Absolutely Jim Brown. Both of those two are my heroes … Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.
“In fact, the influence that Ernie Davis had on me … when I heard that he died I made a vow that I was going to break the record in every hurdle race that I ran … and I did. I had such a passion about him. And I won and broke the record in the state meet in Ohio state and in the city (he attended Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland) meet to prepare for that.”