One of the things I’m really excited about this fall is the upcoming documentary on Hawkeye standout Calvin Jones!

Cal Jones

First, a little background on Cal.  Calvin Jack Jones was born in Steubenville, Ohio, as the youngest of seven children.  Cal’s father died when Cal was about one year old, so Cal’s mother, Tabitha Jones, raised Cal and his six older siblings.

Cal Jones was a dominant lineman for the Hawkeyes from 1953-1955.  Along with his two childhood friends, Eddie Vincent and Frank Gilliam (collectively nicknamed the “Steubenville Trio”), the three Ohio natives helped usher in one of the great eras in Hawkeye football.

Cal was a first team All-American in all three of his years of varsity competition.  He is still the only Hawkeye to be earn three first team All-American selections.  In 1954, Jones became the first college football player, and the first African-American, ever featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Cal JonesAs a senior, Cal Jones was named as Iowa’s team captain, which was a significant recognition for an African-American at that time.  Cal validated the selection by winning the 1955 Outland Trophy, becoming the first African-American to win the prestigious award.  He also finished tenth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, an impressive finish for a lineman.

A Tragic Death

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.  As a rookie with Winnipeg in 1956, Jones made the league’s All-Star Team.  The CFL All-Star Game in Vancouver would be Jones’ final football game.

Cal Jones planned to fly home to Winnipeg before watching the Hawkeyes play in the 1957 Rose Bowl.  On December 9, 1956, Jones overslept his scheduled morning flight, so he caught a later flight that afternoon.  Cal Jones’ flight to Winnipeg crashed in the mountains, killing all 62 people aboard.  Ironically, that matched his jersey number at Iowa – #62.

The 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 Documentary

Calvin JonesDespite the fact that Cal’s #62 is one of only two numbers retired by the Hawkeye football program (with Nile Kinnick’s #24 being the other), many fans believe that Jones has never really received the attention he deserves from Hawkeye fans.  This fall, Cal will get some well-deserved airtime in an upcoming documentary.

TSN, Canada’s equivalent of ESPN, will air eight original documentaries in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup.  These documentaries will be produced in the style of ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series and will cover some of the most compelling stories surrounding the first 100 years of the CFL.

The Crash of Flight 810 looks back at the tragedy that claimed the lives of five CFL players, including Cal Jones.  Paul Cowan, an Oscar-nominated Canadian filmmaker, will direct.

When Cal Jones died at the age of 24, few knew that he actually had a four-month-old son, Edwin.  Cal had the child with Sandra Lee, an 18-year-old daughter of a Houston minister.  Since the two were unmarried, Cal Jones’ son was kept out of the public spotlight.  Edwin was adopted by Lee’s parents, the Harrisons, and given their surname.  Edwin Harrison Sr. eventually had a son of his own, also named Edwin Harrison.

Edwin HarrisonThe younger Edwin Harrison had a fine football career of his own.  He played collegiately at the University of Colorado and now plays in the CFL, like his grandfather.

The Crash of Flight 810 will document Harrison’s journey to learn more about his grandfather and the circumstances surrounding his death.  Harrison traveled to Steubenville as well as the crash site where Cal perished to learn more about the life and death of his legendary grandfather.

No word yet on whether or not the documentary will be available to viewers in Iowa.  Let’s hope that one way or another, the film makes its way stateside so Iowans can join in paying tribute to Cal Jones, one of the finest linemen to wear the black and gold.

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