Johnny 'Lam' Jones to be recognized at 2011 Texas Relays
March 21, 2011
Kfir Goldberg, Texas Media Relations
The Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays is an event that year-after-year brings together the top track & field athletes from around the world. Every year, coaches, athletes, and fans are treated to some of the best running, jumping and throwing competition.
This year's 84th running of the Relays is expected to continue that tradition as teams will compete at Mike A. Myers Stadium from April 6-9.
And while fans will be looking forward to these record-breaking races, throws and jumps, this year, the Texas Relays will be honoring an athlete whose performance at the 1976 Texas State 3A Track & Field Championships has become known as one of the greatest comebacks in Texas sports history.
Johnny "Lam" Jones is heralded as one of UT's most successful two-sport stars. Before taking a single jog for the Longhorns, Jones began his career on The Forty Acres with an Olympic Gold Medal under already his belt. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he ran a leg of USA's 4x100m relay that blew away the competition in 38.33.
His speed transcended the track, as Jones was equally electrifying on the gridiron as a running back and flanker for Texas head coach Fred Akers. And while his athletic achievements are highlighted by an Olympic gold medal, conference championships and a Sun Bowl ring, high school and collegiate track fans are sure to remember "Lam" for his 1976 Texas State Championship, which in his and in the entire community of Lampasas, Texas' eyes, is his most memorable moment while donning racing cleats.
"Lam", his nickname representing his hometown, was a standout sprinter for Lampasas High School.
Entering his senior year of high school, he already held multiple city records that were displayed prominently on a wall at a local Lampasas gym. While Johnny was setting these records in the 220 and 400-meter dashes, he still had yet to run the 100-meter race. Only after much pleading did his coach agree to time him on a 100m.
"After practice one day, I ran 100 meters for [Coach] and when I finished I turn around and see him with a smile on his face. I asked what my time was and he said `Don't worry about it, run it again.' So, I ran it again and this time Coach had an even bigger smile on his face."
From that practice on, Johnny ran the 100 for Lampasas High School under the stipulation that he still raced his other events - the 220, the 400, and the mile relay. His coach forcing Johnny to stay on the mile relay team is what led to the historic race in 1976 on the track at Texas' Memorial Stadium.
"Most weeks when we went out there and competed, we probably had the opportunity to do something that most people don't get to do. You sit around and watch your Rocky movies, or your other come-from-behind stories. We had a chance to do that every single week. Nobody expected us to win," emphasizes Jones.
And that thinking was no different when Johnny and his teammates lined up for the last event of the 3A State meet, the mile relay, which Lampasas needed to win in order to be crowned state champs. The dream of a state title looked all but over when Johnny got passed the baton for the final leg of the race, his team in second-to-last in a distant seventh place. The rest of the race is history though, as Jones sprinted from seventh to beat the field, win the race and give Lampasas the state championship.
"More people ask me about our state meet than they do about the Olympics. People will say what was it like running Olympics, and then they look at me like I'm crazy when I say that is it is almost as exciting as the high school state meet in Texas."
That race and that state championship will be remembered this year at Texas Relays as Johnny "Lam" Jones will return to the University of Texas with his relay team to be honored for their accomplishment. Jones, however, will be quick to turn the attention away from him and onto an even more important event for him.
Jones and his teammates will be launching the start of a new fundraising campaign set to benefit Sinjin Andrukates, who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when he was a student at Lampasas Middle School. Jones, a cancer survivor himself, understands the importance of using his status as a Texas sports legend to help others in need.
"We are going to use this forum to launch the First Annual Sinjin Relay of Champions for Champions. We are hoping people will get donations and sponsors for pledges to exercise, whether it is a mile or a lap."
Throughout a sporting career that includes the Olympics, NCAA Track & Field Championship, Southwest Conference football and the NFL, Jones has never forgotten to credit his hometown and his community for his success.
"I was running for Lampasas. Our senior season, it was like the whole town of Lampasas got to go to the state meet and the whole town got to go to the Olympics. The whole town will be here celebrating our relay team."
And this year at Texas Relays, Johnny "Lam" Jones cannot wait to give back to his community, and help support Sinjin and his family. Jones will even be making a return to the track in honor of the special day.
"Our relay-team is going to start the event by running the first leg at the Texas Relays."