After finishing his run at UM in 1991, where he helped the Hurricanes win their fourth national title, Jones would sign a free agent contract with the New York Jets. Unlike his line mate, All-American Leon Searcy, there would be no huge signing bonus, a multi-million dollar contract or a lengthy NFL career.
Jones would get cut in training camp.
"It was real tough because it was the first time in
my life someone told me I wasn't good enough to play
football," said Jones, who started at guard during the
1990 and '91 seasons, alongside stalwarts like Mike Sullivan, Darren Handy, Rudy Barber, Mario and Luis
Cristobal, Kelvin Harris and Searcy. "It really hurt
and I got down on myself and I really became depressed
because when you just came off winning three national
titles and then you go to the NFL, which was a dream
for me, I just wanted the opportunity to compete in
the NFL and I got that opportunity. A lot of kids,
never, ever reach that goal.
"So that was the pinnacle for me, just to have the
opportunity to go to the NFL and play. And it was
great, but when I had to leave the game, I just
refused to go like that. I went to the CFL for a
couple of years to continue playing because of my love
of football. But it was hard to walk away, one of the
hardest things I've ever had to do."
After getting cut by the Jets, Jones would begin a
four year odyssey that saw him play two years in the
CFL with the Sacramento Gold in 1993 and the Las Vegas
Posse in 1994. The following two seasons he would play
in the Arena Football League for the Miami Hooters and
then the Florida Bobcats.
As he prepared for the next stage of his life- away
from the gridiron- he took solace in the fact that he
not only left UM with three national title rings, but
"You don't realize it at first how important that
degree was because let's face it, the only thing
you're really thinking about is going to the next
level, you want to play in the NFL, you want to make
everything good for you and your family, you want to
make a lot of money. That's everyone's dream," said
Jones, who majored in sociology.
"But then you realize that,' Hey, what happens if
this ends? What are you going to fall back on?' So I
really took it upon myself to go to class, go the
extra mile, study hard at night. It was difficult,
you're coming in from practice, you're tired, you get
here at 10 o'clock, 10:30 and to have to sit down and
study, it takes a real disciplined person. And that
really helped me out in life."
His began his first foray into the real world by going
back to his alma mater, Dillard High School, to teach.
"I really didn't like it," Jones admits. "I was young
and I was thinking,' Is this what I want to do for the
next 30, 35 years?' And that just wasn't it for me
because I was always an ambitious person."
Soon he became an investment banker.
"That really opened my eyes on how to balance money,
how money really works, how investments work and stuff
like that. It became interesting to me but even then I
got bored," said the well-spoken Jones. "I wanted a
challenge in something else and I always enjoyed
science at UM. I took physics and biology just because
I thought it was interesting."
Like many other athletes, Jones found it difficult to
find his calling in life away from the field of play.
His goal was to find a career he'd stick with by the
age of 30.
It was then that he talked to his family doctor who
broached the idea of medical school. The idea of going
back to school didn't particularly interest Jones, who
was married with three kids at the time. But
eventually he would begin the process of selecting his
new career- one that he'd have for the rest of his
He would attend local schools like Palm Beach
Community College and FAU to earn his prerequisites-
while still working full-time as a banker- to qualify
for medical school.
"It was a challenge," admitted Jones. "The decision
to go to medical school was even tougher because I had
to leave my job."
At the time he had full support of his spouse.
"That was one of the biggest decisions I ever had to
make besides what school to go to coming out of high
And in choosing a medical school, he just simply let
his fingers do the walking.
"To be honest, I was just sitting at my desk and I
was thinking about what my doctor had told me," Jones
recalled. "I picked up the phone book and I started
calling medical schools."
Eventually he settled in at Southeastern College of
Osteopathic Medicine (which later merged with Nova
Southeastern). But as he began his first steps into
the world of medicine, he would be blindsided in 1999.
"My wife asked for a divorce," said Jones. "It was a
tough situation for me because we had talked about
everything and how the financial struggle was going to
be hard. At the time I had left my job and didn't have
any extra money coming in and then all of a sudden,
she asked for a divorce."
Soon, he would move back in with his mother with his
three children. As he went back to work, he would
leave medical school.
"I didn't want to leave school totally so I enrolled
in the masters program at the urging of some of my
professors at the school," Jones said. "So I enrolled
in a dual program for the masters of public health."
During that spell he would he would also nab a job on
campus that paid all of $150 a week. By 2002, Jones
would return as a full-time student and this past May
he graduated. A long, arduous journey completed, a career in front of him.
"Medical school was the toughest challenge mentally
and physically I've even been through in my life," he
Now, Jones spends his days at the Columbia Hospital in West Palm Beach.
"I'm doing family medicine now and it's just great
because 'doctor' becomes your first name now," he
says, with pride. "No one knows what your first name
And some of his patients are a bit surprised that a
former Hurricane is looking over them.
"People are really stunned because of the 'dumb jock'
theory, that you go to college and the school kind of
pushes you through," he said with a chuckle. "But I
tell people no one ever gave me anything, I had to
work for it and as a matter of fact I still sign
autographs for people and even now, people are still
amazed I played for the University of Miami."
Yeah, especially those notorious, 2-Live Canes of the
80's and early 90's. Jones proudly sports the national
championship rings from '89 and '91 on his fingers.
"When they see those rings and everything, I kind of
tell them about what it was like, it's still that star
So after it was all said and done, was the struggle
"It was absolutely worth the price," he says
emphatically. "You don't see it at first but nothing
comes easy. If it comes easy, it's probably not a good
thing. But you feel fulfilled inside because of the
fact you worked so hard to get it and it didn't come
easy. So you look at it in a different perspective
because you worked so hard for it. I still can't
believe it now and even when I go back to reunions and
tell my ex-teammates what I'm doing- they still don't
"But some of them say,' Y'know, what Claude? You did
work hard when you were in college and you did go to class.' I didn't know a lot of them noticed how hard I
was working. So it's just great to be back and those
guys still respect you in that way."
It was obvious that during his time at Coral Gables,
Jones was a true 'student-athlete', which is becoming
more and more of a misnomer as time goes by across the
country. Simply put, too many kids nowadays don't take
advantage of a college scholarship outside of
exhausting their eligibility.
"Most of them don't," agreed Jones, who will turn 36
in mid-September, "because you get caught up in the
star status. It takes a lot because the focus isn't on
the classroom anymore. You get caught up into all the
parties and instant star status. People are treating
you like a king and you're a young kid at the time and
having never been involved in something like that, you
can really get caught up."
Since the mid-80's when Jimmy Johnson took over the
program from Howard Schnellenberger, Miami's football
program has consistently been lauded for its
consistently high graduation rates of its football
players by the NCAA.
Jones says the work ethic he honed at Miami helped
prepare him for life after football. "The discipline I
learned at UM, the times when I got home from practice
and I had to study late at night, that carried over
into the real world." And the infrastructure provided
to him by the school was invaluable. "They gave us all
the tools to succeed. They gave us private tutoring,
we had academic advisers, we had study hall, we had
first shot at all the classes. So we never got shut
out of a class that we wanted to take.
"We took tutors on road trips with us, so everything
was there for you to succeed. It's if you wanted to
succeed, that's what it came down to. Because
everything was there and the University of Miami, I'll
always bleed orange and green because of what they did
for me and what the coaches did for me there to set me
up for life.
PART II- Claude talks about his playing days at the
University of Miami
( Steve Kim is a regular contributor to CanesTime and
runs his own website at MaxBoxing.com. For questions
or comments, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paging Dr. Claude Jones
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