Calvin Jack Jones

February 7th, 1933-December 9th,1956

Calvin Jones in his Big Red uniform.

Calvin's Iowa article.


Calvin Jones on the cover of Sports Illustrated's College Football preview edition in 1955. Calvin was the 1st college football player, and 1st African-American on the cover of SI.


Youth and Recruitment

Cal Jones was born on the south side of Steubenville, Ohio, the youngest of seven children. Cal's father died when Cal was about one year old. Cal's mother, Tabitha Jones, raised Cal and his six older siblings during the Great Depression and WW II.

Cal began playing organized football in the fifth grade. By the time they neared the end of their time at Big Red, Cal and his two friends, Eddie Vincent and Frank Gilliam, were being courted by college football programs. Ohio State and their legendary coach, Woody Hayes, only offered a scholarship to Jones. Jones committed to play at Ohio State, while Vincent and Gilliam accepted scholarships to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Before the fall of 1952, Vincent and Gilliam drove to Cal's house to say goodbye before leaving for Iowa. Jones shocked his friends when he said, "Wait a minute...I'm coming with you." Cal ran upstairs, packed a bag, and rode to Iowa City with Vincent and Gilliam. [1]

Jones' sudden switch from Ohio State to conference rival Iowa caused Big 10 commissioner Tug Wilson to conduct a personal investigation. Iowa was cleared of any wrongdoing. When questioned, Cal Jones reportedly told Wilson, "I'll tell you why I came out here. They treated me like a white man, and I like it here. I'm going to stay." [2]

Playing career

The "Steubenville Trio" (as Jones, Vincent, and Gilliam were called) arrived with Iowa football in bad shape. Iowa had only had one winning season in the previous ten years.

Cal Jones was a dominant figure on the field from 1953-1955. In 1953, Iowa finished the year ranked #9 in the final Associated Press, Iowa's best finish since the Ironmen in 1939. Jones was named as a first team All American.

In 1954, Iowa again had a winning season. Jones was named as a consensus first team All American, despite playing the entire year with a broken wrist. Jones broke it in practice before Iowa's first game but kept the injury concealed from the fans and media all year. That season, Jones also became the first college football player ever featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.

In 1955, Cal Jones was named as Iowa's team captain. Though Iowa struggled to a 3-5-1 record, Jones was named as a consensus first team All-American for the second consecutive year. Cal Jones also won the 1955 Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation's top lineman. He was the first black player to win the prestigious award. Jones also finished tenth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, an impressive finish for a lineman.


Cal Jones graduated with a 3.0 grade point average at Iowa. Since pro football opportunities were still limited for black players in the United States, Jones signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL). As a rookie with Winnipeg in 1956, Jones was named to the CFL All-Star Team. The CFL All-Star Game in Vancouver would be Jones' final football game.

Iowa qualified for the Rose Bowl after the 1956 season. Frank Gilliam had sat out the 1955 season with a broken leg, so Gilliam was playing his final year for the Hawkeyes. Jones was to fly home to Winnipeg, gather a few possessions, and then fly to Pasadena to watch Gilliam in the Rose Bowl after the CFL All-Star game.

On December 9th, 1956, Jones overslept his scheduled morning flight from Vancouver, so he scheduled an afternoon flight to stop at Calgary then travel to Winnipeg. Cal Jones' flight on Trans Canadian Airlines #810, from Vancouver to Calgary crashed at Slesse Mountain, killing all 62 people aboard, including one CFL official and four players from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Ironically, that matched his jersey number at Iowa - #62.

Gilliam and the rest of the Iowa Hawkeye team heard of Jones' death as they prepared for the 1957 Rose Bowl against Oregon State. The team dedicated Iowa's first Rose Bowl appearance to Cal's memory and won the game, 35-19. The team sent the game ball to Tabitha Jones, Cal's mother in Steubenville.


Cal Jones is currently the only three-time first team All American in Iowa history. He is one of only two Iowa players to be named a consensus first team All-American twice (Larry Station is the other). Jones was inducted into the Iowa Sports Hall Of Fame in 1971 and the College Football Hall Of Fame in 1980.

In 1989, Iowa fans selected an all-time University of Iowa football team during the 100th anniversary celebration of Iowa football, and Cal Jones was selected to the team as a lineman. And the University of Iowa retired Cal Jones' #62. Jones is one of only two players so honored -Nick Kinnick's #24 is similarly retired.

The street where Steubenville Big Red's Harding Stadium is located, is named in Calvin Jones' honor.


  1. ^ Calvin Jones: Glitter in Iowa's Golden Era, Maury White, Des Moines Register, April 4, 1971 Jones' Register Hall of Fame Bio
  2. ^ Gridiron Glory: 100+ Years of Iowa Football Gridiron Glory: 1952

From Wikipedia