Don Jonas, Greatest West Scranton Athlete

Jonas

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Don Jonas may have been the greatest all-around athlete to come out of the city of Scranton. Quarterback, running back, receiver, pitcher, catcher, shooting guard, kicker: Jonas played them all and played them all well.

In 1956-57, Jonas put together a display of ability unheard of. He averaged 33.9 points per game and scored 72 in one night to lead the Lackawanna Basketball League in scoring; in football the same season as West’s QB, Jonas scored 112 points, including 32 in his final game, to earn first-team all-state in football. He also was a pitcher and went 7-0, with three of the wins coming in the last three games of the season. On his days off, he was a power-hitting catcher for the Invaders. Jonas had a 125 scholarship offer coming out of West. He chose Penn State, the alma matre of his high school coach, the legendary Sam Donato.

When Jonas made the jump to college, he concentrated on football. He switched from Quarterback to Running Back because the Nittany Lions needed a back and Richie Lucas was firmly entrenched as Penn State’s starter. Jonas led the Nittany Lions in Punt Return average in 1960 with a 21.4 average and 1 TD. He is third on the all-time PSU list with a 15.9 average and 2 TDs. In 1960, as a running back, he ran 49 times for 238 yards (4.9 yard average) and 2 touchdowns. He also caught 6 passes, completed 3 of 7 passes, intercepted 3 opponent passes and returned 7 punts. In 1961 he gained 149 yards in 31 attempts (4.8 average) and caught 5 passes, scoring 2 TDs. He also returned punts and kickoffs. Jonas also did the place kicking for the Nittany Lions. He was named to the All 1960’s team as the second team place kicker.

He was drafted in 32nd round by the New York Titans of the AFL and in the 14th round by the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1962, he played one games with the Eagles and was cut. He never got another chance to play in the NFL again.

Don then went to Harrisburg of the Atlantic Coast Professional Football League. There Don did it all: running back, receiver, quarterback and kicker. He started the year at Flanker and caught 20 passes and 5 touchdowns in his first five games. Then the Capitals starting QB and back-up were injured. Jonas filled in. Don just missed leading the ACFL in completions (trailing by five) and passing yards (by 64), finished 10th in the league in rushing, led the league in field goals and was first in total yards. Don won the league MVP for his efforts.

Don made his mark north of the border. Jonas’ first season in the Canadian Football League, 1970, with the Toronto He completed 124 of 256 passes for 2041 yards (and 17 TDs versus 25 ints).HIs team was 5-8-1.

Dona played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1971, he hit 253 of 485 passes for a stunning 4036 yards with 27 TDs and 31 picks. It was another MVP, as Jonas won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award. He would play two more full seasons for the Bombers, before, surprisingly, being traded. His final CFL totals are 977 completions on 1930 throws for 15064 yards and 98 TDs versus 130 interceptions.

Don Jonas became University of Central Florida’s first head football coach on a volunteer basis in 1979. UCF finished the season 6-2, and sets an NCAA Division III record for attendance with an average of 11,240 in what was then known as the Tangerine Bowl. It was a very successful first season. Don coached for 2 more years before retiring. His final record as a coach was 14-12-1.

http://www.footballresearch.com/articles/frpage.cfm?topic=jona-don

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