(Written By Tom Shanahan)
Michigan State football fans rejoiced for two reasons last May when Percy Snow was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame:
— 1) The 1989 Butkus Award and Lombardi Award winner as a senior in and 1988 Rose Bowl MVP (1987 season) earned enshrinement in the Hall.
— 2) Snow’s election and removal from the ballot opened a spot for Clinton Jones (photo), the two-time All-American halfback whom many say should have been inducted long ago. The Hall of Fame limits the number of players from a school that can be on the ballot in the same year.
Jones joined the ballot for the first time when the College Football Hall of Fame released on Thursday its list. The Class of 2014 will be named in May and inducted in December in Atlanta.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder, a big back with speed for his era, was one of four two-time All-American picks (and first-round NFL draft choices) on Michigan State’s 1965-66 national championship teams along defensive end Bubba Smith, rover/linebacker George Webster and wide receiver Gene Washington. Webster was inducted in 1987, Smith in 1988 and Washington in 2011.
Jones and Webster were voted team captains as seniors in 1966. They are believed to be the first two black team captains without sharing the role with a white player in college football history. Michigan State had a history of leading the way in the integration of college football under coach Duffy Daugherty.
“We were more than a sports story at Michigan State,” Jones said. “A lot of athletes and youth today don’t know the history of the times. There were people being murdered and put in jail over voting. Things were boiling over in the country with civil unrest in the 1960s, but at Michigan State we were an oasis.”
Following the 1966 season, which ended in a controversial 10-10 against Notre Dame in the Game of the Century, Michigan State and Notre Dame were honored with the MacArthur Bowl Trophy as national co-champions by the National Football Foundation with identical 9-0-1 records.
Jones and Webster attended the ceremony as team captains with Daugherty at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City along with Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian and Notre Dame captain Jim Lynch.
Daugherty, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984, considered Jones one of college football’s all-time greats.
“I wouldn’t trade Jones for any halfback in the country,” Daugherty said during the 1966 season. “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.”
Jones finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1966, the year that Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier won the award and Purdue quarterback Bob Griese was the runner-up.
Jones, the second pick of the NFL 1967 draft after Bubba Smith, played for the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers. He has been a chiropractor along with his wife Rosielee in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley since retiring from pro football.