Football

PHOTO HISTORY: Is 'Lam' Jones the greatest athlete in UT history?

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Posted January 23rd, 2018

John Burt is an amazing athlete. The two-sports star at Texas is having another terrific start to the track season:

But he’s not the first football and track star at Texas. And he’s far from the most notable.

One of the greatest men’s track star in Texas history was a household name before he even arrived on campus, and Darrell Royal gave him his famous nickname.

Lampasas native Johnny Jones, arguably the greatest athlete ever to come from Central Texas, made the US Olympic Track and Field Team before he was ever on campus. He was part of the gold medal winning 4×100 relay team at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games.

He was also a key member of the football team.

This week’s photo shows just how competitive and driven Johnny Jones was:

Freshman Johnny “Lam” Jones reacts after winning the 100-meter dash as the winning tape still hangs from his body in Austin on May 13, 1977. Jones ran a 9.42 on his way to winning the Southwest Conference Championship in the 100. (Ed Malcik/ American-Statesman)

This photo was taken just moments after Jones had won the Southwestern Conference championship in the 100-meter dash. He looks not that happy. The Olympian was expected to break the conference record, but fell a tenth of a second from doing so, running a 9.42. The ribbon still flowing off Jones’ body is terrific shot from former Statesman photographer Ed Malcik.

What’s even more interesting about this photo?

Jones went on to have a standout football career at the University of Texas.

Nicknamed “Lam” by legendary coach Darrell Royal — he had to nickname the only Olympian on the football team? — because the Longhorns already had a Johnny Jones on the team. Because one was from Lampasas and the other from Hamlin, there was “Lam” Jones and “Ham” Jones.

“Lam” Jones went on to catch 14 touchdowns at Texas and average 28 catches a season — which because Texas rarely ever threw the ball, was a lot back in the late 1970s. Jones is 10th all-time in Texas all-purpose yards with 3,042 yards.

When it came time to decide his post Longhorn career, Jones had a decision to make: the 1980 Olympics or the 1980 NFL Draft. Because he was slated to be a top pick, he went with the NFL.

And he was smart to do so. Jones became the third-highest NFL draft pick from Texas when he was taken No. 2 overall by the New York Jets. Kenneth Simms would pass him two years later when the New England Patriots took the defensive lineman No. 1. Jones played with two of the three Longhorns to be taken No. 1, Earl Campbell (1978) and Simms (the other No. 1 pick is the great Tommy Nobis in 1966). No Longhorn wide receiver has ever been taken higher than Jones.

Jones’ pro career didn’t work out as he would have hoped. He received a record $2.1 million contract from the Jets and caught 138 passes and 13 touchdowns in five seasons. He battled drugs and alcohol addictions that derailed his career and life. After going to rehab, Jones went on to speak out against the dangers of drugs and alcohol at schools.

Click here for more photos of the great Johnny “Lam” Jones. 

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