Paging Dr. Claude Jones - Part II

After helping Dillard High School to the state class 4-A title in his senior year - blocking for future Michigan State Spartans Lorenzo White and Hyland Hickson - Claude Jones, who was named a SuperPrep All-American and earned All-State honors in 1986, had a big decision to make.

What school would he attend for the next four or five years of his life?

For Jones who was recruited by Joe Brodsky, who was Miami's running backs coach at the time, it was a relatively easy decision.

"Quite simply I wanted to stay close to home," said the native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on his decision to attend the University of Miami. "I always watched the Canes, it was always my dream to play for the Canes and I had an opportunity to fill my dreams. It was just an amazing opportunity for me so I couldn't pass it up."

For him the 'welcome-to-Miami'moment was just getting to Coral Gables.

"When I first got on campus, Brett Perriman was the first person I saw and he kind of showed me around and everything," said Jones, who carried a 3.1 GPA in at Dillard High and was selected to the prestigious Florida-Georgia All-Star Game after his senior year." I was just in awe because those guys I watched on TV over the years. I was actually teammates with them now. So it was just amazing being 17-years old and having instant star status."

As the Canes rolled to a 12-0 mark and their second national title, Jones would redshirt and work on the scout team against the likes of Danny Stubbs, Bill Hawkins and Derwin Jones on a daily basis.

"You find out fast that when you get to the college level, especially at UM, everyone's an All-American," said Jones. "So it didn't matter if you were All-American in high school or All-World, when you get to UM you're pretty much on the same level with everyone. To go against those guys everyday, it just made me a better player. And just being in awe watching those guys over the years and how they play and everything. And now I'm lining up in front of them, it's pretty intimidating at first but you get used to it."

Jones would play for two coaches during his five years at Miami. His first two seasons in the program were with Jimmy Johnson.

"Jimmy was strict, he was a disciplinarian, he was a great motivator," he says of his original coach at UM. "He got us ready to play every week and it was just a wonderful opportunity to play for such a great coach who went on to win Super Bowls and really establish himself in the NFL. It was just a joy to me to even be involved with him."

Johnson was known for letting his players cut loose on the field emotionally. Those editions of the Hurricanes were known just as much for their histrionics and antics as their overall play on the field.

So was Johnson really a disciplinarian?

"It's a big misunderstanding," explains Jones," because football is a game of emotion. And if you make a big play at that particular moment, the energy comes out of you. Jimmy was a disciplinarian as far as us going to class, coming to practice, coming to meetings and these are the things people on the outside don't see- the things we go through during the week.

"Actually, most of the time when you're so suppressed during the week with different rules and regulations, it's actually a joy when it comes to Saturday because you can release all that energy, what you had packed up for the week."

While Jones gradually worked his way up the depth chart, he would never get an opportunity to become a starter under Johnson. After the 1988 season Johnson would take the post of the Dallas Cowboys taking over for the legendary Tom Landry.

"He called a meeting and during the past few months we were hearing different rumors about Jimmy going to Dallas and stuff like that," Jones said of that uncertain time. "We were hearing it on TV, hearing it from other people. So we really weren't sure what was going on."

But as Johnson and his old college roommate from the University of Arkansas were seen together around Valley Ranch in the spring of 1989, it was clear that the Canes would be getting a new coach.

"He called a meeting and we didn't know if he was going to tell us if he was staying or going," recalled Jones. "He basically told us that he enjoyed everything we did for him and he got real emotional and that was it. He told us he was going to Dallas. He left and a lot of us were sitting there stunned but not really surprised because we knew it was a great opportunity for him and we were happy for him.

"But we were like,'What coach is going to come in here and take over and do the job Jimmy did?'And that's what we were most afraid off."

After the players attempt to lift offensive coordinator Gary Stevens to the head coaching job, failed, a relatively unknown coach from the west coast by the name of Dennis Erickson was tabbed by athletic director Sam Jankovich to replace Johnson.

"When they picked Dennis Erickson, I never even heard of Dennis, I never even heard of Washington State to be honest," admitted Jones, laughing.

The players had already begun their spring workouts and what Erickson had observed, impressed him.

"He pretty much saw the way we handled things without a coach. We continued to lift weights and have meetings and stayed involved and got in shape for whoever the next coach was going to be," Jones said. "So when Dennis came there the framework was already set. All he had to do was put in his system and let us play."

According to him, the main difference between he and Johnson was, "Dennis was more of a 'players coach', he sat down and listened to you and listened to your problems. Jimmy, was more business-like, he was more rigid, where as Dennis was a little more flexible in the way he handled things."

In Erickson's first season, Miami would go 11-1 and win their third title. It was at this point that Jones would start to make his mark on the field, playing in every game that season as a reserve at the strong guard position and earning his first varsity letter.

By 1990, Jones would become entrenched as one of the Hurricanes starting guards (who also started the Boston College game at center in place of the injured Darren Handy). The Canes would go 10-2, finishing third in the country and the Miami offense set a school record with 482.9 yards per game.

They would end the season with a flourish by spanking the Texas Longhorns in their own backyard at the Cotton Bowl Classic by a score of 46-3.

And it isn't just the blowout that will be remembered but the manner in which it was achieved. The Canes taunted, flaunted and swaggered all over the Longhorns, who Jones says instigated all of it with their brash talk leading up to the game.

"During the week, Texas, they were talking a lot of trash and they were trying to intimidate us and coach told us to take the high road and just let them talk and just be professional about it," said Jones. Most of the Texas trash talk came from offensive lineman Stan Thomas and safety Stanley Richard. "So when we got on the field it was a fight because they thought they actually had a chance to beat us. On the opening kick Robert Bailey knocked the kick returner out and that just set the tone for the whole game."

But Jones admits, for a program that had no problems in showing up to bowl games in army fatigues and walking out on steak fry's, to just lay back and listen to another team call them out was difficult.

"It was definitely hard for us," he says. "Because at that point towards the end of the season Dennis was telling us to tone it down. He was getting pressure from up top, especially after the Cal game. "Which was a contest that the Miami players seem to do everything short of the 'Soul Train Line' in Berkeley. "A lot of rules started coming down that, 'Hey, you guys need to be professional, stop dancing. 'So we took the professional road but we showed it on the field from holding it in all week. We let it loose on the field."

From the pre-game stare down at mid-field, to defenders who would bunny-hop after INT's, an offense that started their first drive with a 1st and 45( and actually moved the chains) to Randall Hill's tunnel run, Miami didn't just beat Texas, they emasculated them.

The seminal statistic for this game is that Miami had nearly as many yards in penalties (202) as Texas had in total offense (205).

It was 'Hurricane Football' at its best/worst. To the Miami faithful it represented a new, bold, brash hip-hop style of football. To the opposing faction it was nothing short of the end of Western civilization. To the players, the Cotton Bowl was the only way to play ball.

"Yeah, it was," agreed Jones. "It was a real good time, it just felt funny because we weren't directly playing for the national title and to me it was a funny feeling because it just felt like another game. If we're not playing for the national title, it's just another game. But we went out there and had fun. I really wanted to do it for the seniors, especially for my line mates: Mike Sullivan, Luis Cristobal, Darren Handy, those guys were going out there who had great careers. So I just wanted to see those guys leave on a winning note."

But in the aftermath of that game and the outrage across the nation over the Canes antics, the NCAA enacted the 'Miami Rules' which basically banned any over-the-top celebrations. Every team was shown a tape of what would be a 15-yard penalty the following year.

"The whole tape had our highlights on it and coach showed it to us and everything, from the NCAA," Jones recalled, with a chuckle. "And it was just amazing to me how every clip was us on what not to do. So it was hilarious to me but we were really impressed that we struck a chord in someone that they really wanted to change the rules. It was actually flattering."

If Miami had a vice back then it was their cocky persona, which they weren't shy about.

"We had that attitude, we had that swagger. We knew once we came out on the field that we were number one, our fans knew we were number one, the world we knew we were number one and we put it in the other teams face and they knew they didn't have a chance when we came out there," and when Jones says this, you can hear the pride in his voice. "So for us it was great to be in that situation where you're the number one team, everybody knows it. So we didn't rub it in your face in a bad way, but we let you know that you're going to be in a football game."

At times, games were won before the coin toss- as the whole Miami squad would line up near the hash-marks in unison, staring down the opposition.

"Teams were quite frankly intimidated by us," says Jones. "You can look across the line and tell if a players intimidated and not going full speed. A lot of people misunderstand that, that we're criminals and don't go to class, we don't graduate. But I'm a testament that athletes do graduate and go on to great things."

And don't tell him that the Miami program was filled with thugs and gangsters.

"Because I would take any student or any person who said that and have them go through just a couple of weeks of our daily routine," said Jones, who earned a degree in sociology at Miami. "And I dare them to come back and tell me that they could do that for four or five years. Just going through our schedule, it's grueling, the practices, the classes, meetings, it takes a real disciplined individual to do that. And I dare anyone to try it for a couple of weeks and see how it feels."

During his five years at Miami (87-91), the Hurricanes had a combined mark of 56-4, with three national championships. But one game stands out to Jones.

Wide Right I.

It was a battle," said Jones, of that contest between the nation's two top ranked teams in Miami and FSU in 1991, that took place late in the season in Tallahassee. "We always said that we played two games every year: Florida St. and Notre Dame. Everyone else was basically a scrimmage," he added, laughing. "So we knew when we came into Florida St. they were number one, we were number two, it was going to be a battle, it was going to be a fight. And it turned out to be one of the best football games played in college football."

The Hurricanes would find themselves down 16-7 in the fourth quarter. After a 45-yard field goal from Carlos Huerta cut the lead to 16-10, Miami would mount one last rally. As the Hurricanes, led by the hard-charging running of Stephen McGuire drove deep inside FSU territory, the Canes march hit a snag.

"It came down to the wire, it came down to 4th and 6 on the final drive," Jones said. When Gino Torretta hit Horace Copeland for nine yards to convert, Miami inched closer to the Nole goal line. Eventually it would be 3rd and goal from the one.

"I was telling Gino in the huddle to tell coach to bring it behind me when we were on the goal line," recalled Jones of that game winning surge. "I knew I had to take it upon myself to make it happen. So that's what he did, he called the play to my side and we scored."

As Larry Jones broke the plane of the goal-line and Huerta converted the PAT, Miami would take a 17-16 lead with just minutes remaining. But this ballgame was far from over. Led by Casey Weldon, the Noles would mount a drive of their own and in the final seconds, Gerry Thomas would attempt a 34-yard field goal to give the Seminoles, not only the win, but an inside track at the national championship.

As the kick went up, it looked good.

"Oh, yeah, it absolutely looked good," admitted Jones. "Standing on the sideline, I thought it was good."

But it was wide right. Miami would win 17-16 and a new FSU tradition would be born.

"I couldn't believe he missed that kick, it was almost a chip-shot. I truly believe it was the pressure of the moment, where he knew he had to make that kick to beat us. It just carried over the years and it's a mindset now, that Miami knows that they can go into Florida St. and win."

The win brought out conflicting emotions in Jones.

"It was just an amazing feeling, I really can't explain it. I was so happy I just started running up and down the sideline. But then I realized there were a few more seconds on the clock so we had to go out there and sit on the ball. So we had to calm down and I looked over to the center, I said, 'Whatever you do, just get that ball up' said Jones, who also realized later this would be his last Sunshine State showdown." After the game I just sat their and cried because it was so emotional to me because I knew that I would never play FSU again.

"And that was what really put it in perspective for me and that's what made it bittersweet in a way. Because I knew my college career was coming to an end and I would never play them again, so I had to beat them."

Six weeks later he would end his Hurricane career by paving the way for Jones- who started in place of an injured Stephen McGuire- to rush for 144 yards and one score in a 22-0 whitewash of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1992 Federal Express Orange Bowl.

He would leave UM, just as he came into it, as a member of a national championship squad.

"I won a state title my senior year in high school. And to come in my first year in college and win a national title and to leave winning a national title, we were the first five year class to do it," Jones states proudly. "And we had other opportunities to win, we got robbed at Notre Dame with the Cleveland Gary incident. To leave like that really capped it off for me.

"It's a dream come true and a blessing, a true blessing that I was ever involved with Miami football."

But at Miami, players are a part of the program for life. And like many other former players, Jones tries to stay as closely involved with the program as possible.

"At UM they really take care of us and I really appreciate what they do for the older guys, the alumni," says Jones, who resides in West Palm Beach." As a matter of fact, the 20-year reunion of the '87 team is coming up so I sit back and think about it and it brings tears to my eyes because I'm like, 'Wow, that was 20 years ago. I came in as a kid and left a man.'

"In that time I really learned a lot. I started a family during my time at UM. So I really learned a lot about life."

(Steve Kim is a regular contributor to Canes Time and runs his own website at For questions or comments, he can be reached at

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