Induction Year: 1986
When Bert Jones won the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League after his fourth season in the NFL, many observers considered the 25-year-old quarterback a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
What they didn’t count on was a series of injuries, culminating with a career ending broken neck in 1982.
Jones, who threw 71 touchdown passes in his first five NFL seasons, had 53 more in the remainder of his career.
When he broke an NFL record with 17 consecutive completions against the Jets at the end of his second season, Jones joined his father, W.A “Dub” Jones as the only father-son combination in the record book.
In 1986, Bert Jones joined his dad as the only father-son combination in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
At 34, he was the second-youngest person inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Former Southwestern Louisiana basketball star Dwight “Bo” Lamar went in at the age of 32.
“All you have to do is break your neck,” said Jones, who stayed in the public eye after his playing career as a member of the Miller Lite television commercial team. He also stayed in touch with football as the analyst for telecasts of LSU games.
When he was n the first grade, Bert Jones’ teacher asked her students what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Some of the boys had a hard time deciding whether they would be a doctor, fireman, policeman, etc., but here was no doubt in Bert’s mind. “I’m going to be a professional football player,” he said, “like my daddy.”
In 1951, “Dub” Jones was an All-Pro flanker for the Cleveland Browns who matched Ernie Nevers’ 22-year-old NFL record by scoring six touchdowns in one game against the Chicago Bears. Bert was only four years old when his father retired, but he later played catch with Browns quarterbacks on the sideline during preseason training camp when “Dub” returned to Cleveland as an assistant coach.
Although Jones was an outstanding quarterback at Ruston High, his exploits were overshadowed by Woodlawn’s Joe Ferguson. While Jones was winning All-District honors, Ferguson was rewriting national records and leading Woodlawn to the 1968 state championship.
Their first head-to-head duel was in the middle of the 1967 season. Jones passed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, while Ferguson passed for 183 yards and four touchdowns. Their passes accounted for seven of the eight touchdowns in Woodlawn’s 34-19 victory. A year later, neither quarterback threw as much as Woodlawn rolled past the Bearcats 34-19en rout to the state championship. They were teammates in the Louisiana all-star game in the summer of 1969, but both were overshadowed by another future pro—Chalmette’s Norris Weese.
Jones waited until Ferguson signed a letter of intent with the University of Arkansas before he opted for LSU.
Jones didn’t become a regular starter at LSU until the end of his junior year.
“Bert wasn’t the most coachable player I’ve ever had,” said LSU coach Charlie McClendon.
“I probably was a big headache for him,” Jones said. “He wasn’t necessarily happy with me, and I wasn’t necessarily happy with his two-quarterback system.”
A few years earlier, when Archie Manning led Ole Miss past LSU two years in a row while McClendon was alternating quarterbacks, Charlie Mac responded to criticism by saying “If I had a hoss like Manning, I ‘d only use one quarterback, too.”
When he got his only All-American quarterback, however, McClendon didn’t think he was enough of a hoss to abandon his beloved two-quarterback system.
The highlights of Bert Jones’ career at LSU were a nationally televised 28-8 win over Notre Dame in 1971 and his game-winning touchdown pass to Brad Davis against Ole Miss the following year after the final second ticked off the scoreboard clock.
In the NFL, he rode the bench for much of his first two seasons before taking charge and leading the Colts to three consecutive division titles.
After a preseason shoulder injury in 1978, Jones played with a half-inch separation in his shoulder for the remainder of his career. But he still managed to pass for a career high 3,234 yards and 23 touchdowns in 1980.
When he was traded to the Rams in 1982, Jones was the No. 2 active quarterback according to the NFL passing efficiency system behind Ken Anderson. But he threw only 87 passes in an injury-plagued 1982 season before the broken neck forced him to retire with career totals of 18,190 yards passing and 124 touchdown passes.
Before the series of injuries that eventually ended his career, Jones had passed for more than 300 yards six times within a span of three years.
The neck injury that forced him to retire at the age of 31 hasn’t bothered him at bit. “I can do anything,” he said, “except play football.”
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame | 500 Front Street | Natchitoches, LA 71497