Dub Jones recalls life in the AAFC; son Bert recalls replacing Johnny Unitas


bertjones

(Bert Jones photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)
(Dub Jones photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns)

Talk of Fame Network

The first of a six-part series on the other pro football leagues kicks off this week, focusing on the All-America Football Conference, with another first for The Talk of Fame Network:  The first father-son visitors, Dub and Bert Jones, join us to talk about their times in two very different football eras.

Dub Jones began his 10-year NFL career with the Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference in 1946 but was traded to the Cleveland Browns two years later. There he was part of an explosive trio of receivers, joining Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie to form the most dangerous passing attack of that era.

With Otto Graham at quarterback and eight future Hall of Famers in the lineup, the Browns won the AAFC title all four years of the league’s existence before being merged into the NFL along with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts in 1950.

The Browns would go on to reach the NFL title game for the next five years, winning three times, but Dub recalled that no game was bigger than the Browns’ first in the NFL, when they met the two-time NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles in front of 71,000 fans at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium.

“It was probably the biggest game I ever played in,’’ the 90-year-old two-time Pro Bowler recalled. “You could hear a pin drop in the locker room it was so quiet. I was nervous, and so were 33 other players nervous….We were nervous and we were ready to play.’’

Indeed so, stunning the Eagles, 35-10, to set the stage for the Browns’ first NFL championship. Although Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall had claimed “the worst team in our league could beat the best team in their league,’’ the Browns proved otherwise.

Jones played on three NFL champions in his five years in the NFL (and two more AAFC title winners) and never once believed the NFL’s dismissive comments. A key reason was Graham, who led the Browns to 10 consecutive league championship games, winning seven (four in the AAFC and three in the NFL).

“I can’t tell you how great an athlete he was,’’ Jones recalled. “In football, he could always find a way to make the play and that was a big factor in making the Browns a team that never broke.’’

After Jones retired following the 1955 season, he worked in private business for seven years before returning to Cleveland to serve as the Browns offensive coordinator from 1963-1967. He called the plays for two teams that reached the NFL title game, including Cleveland’s 1964 championship team that was the last to win a title.

Dub and Bert are the only father-son tandem to each be the second player selected in the NFL draft. The elder was taken by the Chicago Cardinals in 1946 but opted to sign with Miami of the AAFC because it offered a $12,000 contract Chicago refused to match. Some 27 years later, Bert was selected No. 2 in the draft by the Colts and signed with Baltimore, where he was the 1976 league MVP and until injuries ended his career in 1982 “the best pure passer I’ve ever seen,’’ according to New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick.

Jones recalls what it was like to replace Johnny Unitas and what life was like for a young boy spending summers at the Browns’ training camp when his father was coaching.

Great as that was it caused Bert a problem his rookie season when he encountered Cleveland’s Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson, whose room he used to stay in as a kid, before his first game. The exchange Jones recalls is priceless.

So too is the weekly exchange of information from our Dr. Data, Rick Gosselin. This week the Doc explains why Norv Turner may be the best thing that ever happened to Adrian Peterson.

Ron Borges finds Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell’s claim that a number of teams will often go for two points this season far from bogus in his Borges or Bogus segment. Ron also states the Hall-of-Fame case for former Raiders’ tight end Todd Christensen.

Host Clark Judge fires the questions at Rick and Ron in the two-minute drill and the guys kick around the endless “Deflategate” dust up, the credentials of potential members of the 2016 Hall-of-Fame class, and discuss the Hall’s decision to let Junior Seau’s daughter, Sydney, speak for him during last weekend’s enshrinement.

That and more can be found on this week’s show at talkoffamenetwork.com, on iTunes, on our podcast on the TuneIn app or on about 100 local radio stations around the country.

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2 Comments

  1. Rasputin
    September 8, 2015
    Reply

    Good interview with Dub Jones. At 90 his mind and memory still seem razor sharp. While the NFL guys were wrong to claim that the worst NFL team could beat the best AAFC team, they weren’t far from the truth. The Browns were on the same level as the best NFL teams but they had absolutely dominated the AAFC every year. It wasn’t even close. The 49ers were a distant second in the AAFC and started off tied with the next to worst record their first year in the NFL. So apart from the Browns the NFL was so much better than the AAFC that its worst teams were roughly on the same level as the second best AAFC team. The Browns’ NFL championship validated the Browns, and in particular Paul Brown’s innovative genius, more than it did the larger AAFC. That said, it’s true that the AAFC and later AFL were important in encouraging the NFL to expand to regions it had previously neglected.

    • Punkie
      January 11, 2016
      Reply

      Dub and my father, also from Ruston, LA, were lifelong friends. I remember driving them around Ruston a few years ago and the two of them pointing out landmarks, and homes where “so and so” lived or where “we rode our bikes” … at the time, my sister and I had worried about Dad’s memory, but he and Dub had total recall of everything that had happened to them growing up in Ruston and their lives thereafter! Dub and his wife, “Shump”, are two of the most amazing people one could hope to meet!

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