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Legacy of Calvin Jones still grows

April 26, 2012
The Herald-Star

The memories of one of Steubenville's - and North America's - greatest football legends will come to life Friday when the spirit of Steubenville shines at Harding Stadium.

Footage from the evening will be used as part of a documentary Canada's TSN sports network is producing to honor Jones, one of the greatest football players to ever come from Steubenville, the Big Ten and the Canadian Football League. Filmmakers with Canada's Infield Fly Productions will electronically age the footage and incorporate it into their production to simulate the experience of a high school football game played during the early 1950s.

It's fitting that TSN has chosen to honor Jones as part of its package on the 100th anniversary of the CFL. Before his death on Dec. 9, 1956, in a plane crash in the Canadian Rockies, Jones had made his mark as one of the best football players of his - and, arguably, any - era.

A standout athlete at Steubenville Big Red, Jones played varsity football and basketball for four consecutive years. He was named to the all-state football team in 1950 and 1951 and was the Ohio Lineman of the Year in 1951. Jones also was a star in basketball, helping Big Red's 1951-52 team to a 28-0 record, the first undefeated team in the school's history.

His efforts earned him a spot at the University of Iowa, where he won varsity letters in 1953, 1954 and 1955. He was a first-team All-Big Ten guard three times and was named to 22 All-America teams, including 15 in 1954. In 1955, he became the first African-American to win the Outland Trophy, presented annually to the best lineman in the country.

Jones became the first African-American to be pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine when Mark Kauffman's iconic photograph appeared in the Sept. 27, 1954, edition. He also was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Figures from Ohio by that magazine in its Dec. 27, 1999, edition.

He was one of three great athletes who traveled from Steubenville to Iowa in the early 1950s. Edward "Punkin" Vincent and Frank Gilliam were stars in their own right and went on to accomplish great things.

Vincent served as the mayor of Inglewood, Calif., and in the California Senate, while Gilliam was the longtime director of player personnel for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League.

The memory of Jones was preserved in a special way when the road that runs in front of Harding Stadium - the former Dunbar Avenue Extension - was renamed Calvin Jones Way.

Friday's event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. We hope many area residents will turn out to help ensure that the legacy Jones has left will continue to be shared by future generations.

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