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Don Jonas

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Title: Don Jonas  
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Subject: Anthony Calvillo, Lindy Berry, Wally Gabler, UCF Knights football, 1961 NFL Draft
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Don Jonas

Don Jonas
Date of birth: (1938-12-03) December 3, 1938
Place of birth: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Career information
Status: Retired
CFL status: International
Position(s): QB
Height: 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight: 195 lb (88 kg)
College: Penn State
As coach:
1979–1981 UCF
As player:
Philadelphia Eagles
Harrisburg Capitols
Newark Bears
Orlando Panthers
Toronto Argonauts
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Career highlights and awards
CFL All-Star: 1971, 1972
CFL East All-Star: 1971, 1972
Awards: 1962 - Atlantic Coast Football League MVP
1966 to 1968 - Continental Football League MVP
1971 - CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award

Donald Walter Jonas (born December 3, 1938) is a former American football player and coach. Jonas played in the American minor leagues (semi-pro) and the Canadian Football League. He was also the first head coach of the UCF Knights (1979–1981).[1]

Playing career

College football

Jonas played college football at Penn State University. His first season was 1958, and he did not play (was red-shirted) in 1959. In 1960, as a running back, he ran 49 times for 238 yards (4.9 yard average) and two touchdowns. He also caught six passes, completed 3 of 7 passes, intercepted three opponent passes and returned seven punts. In 1961 he gained 149 yards in 31 attempts (4.8 average) and caught five passes, scoring two touchdowns. He also returned punts and kickoffs.

Proving to be a versatile player, he was drafted by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in the 13th round (182nd overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft. His time with the Eagles was very short. He played in only one game in the 1962 season.

Coincidentally, his Penn State quarterback Peter Liske would also go on to star in the CFL, playing against Jonas and himself winning the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award in 1967.

Semi-pro football

Jonas turned to minor league football after his brief stint in the NFL; in the 1960s, the days before big player salaries, this was a viable option for a football player. Both semi-pro teams and the CFL offered Jonas playing time and competitive money.

  • 1963 – His first season was with the Harrisburg Capitols of the Atlantic Coast Football League. He started as a receiver, catching 20 passes for 422 yards, but when the quarterback was injured, Jonas stepped behind the center, completing 112 of 233 passes for 1649 yards (11 TDs, 14 interceptions) as well as running for another 455 yards. His team had a 8 win, 3 loss and 1 tie, and Jonas was named the league's Most Valauable Player. He also handled kicking duties, as he would for his entire career.
  • 1964 – Injuries slowed Jonas down, and he only completed 94 of 204 passes for 1264 yards (13 TDs, 16 interceptions). Harrisburg was 4-10.
  • 1966 to 1969 – The Newark Bears moved to become the Orlando Panthers, and won 12, 11, 10 and 10 games in those seasons with Jonas at quarterback, winning the championship in 1967 and 1968 and losing in the final in 1966. Jonas was the league MVP each season from 1966 to 1968. His biggest year, in 1967, saw him throw 407 passes, hitting 203 of them for 3446 yards and 41 TDs, with 21 picks.

His career minor league stats were 1032 completions in 2085 attempts for 17,183 yards and 171 TDs and 130 interceptions, with 4 MVP awards. His only weakness was his somewhat low completion percentage. In 1967, the NFL’s Denver Broncos offered him a contract, but it most certainly paid him less than his MVP Orlando salary. And, by the time the Continental Football League folded, Jonas was the over the age of 30, so Canada was his best option.

  • 1983 - Induction into the American Football Association's Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame 1983

Canadian Football League

Jonas’ first season in the Canadian Football League, 1970, was with the Toronto Argonauts, where he was teamed up with Tom Wilkinson. His 124 completions, 256 passes for 2041 yards (and 17 TDs versus 25 ints) did not help the 8-6 team win the Grey Cup as the Argos lost to the eventual Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes 16-7 in the divisional semi-final.

Moving to the Western Division with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1971, he hit 253 of 485 passes for a stunning 4036 yards with 27 TDs and 31 interceptions. Jonas won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award.

He would play two more full seasons for the Bombers before being traded midway through the 1974 season to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for their quarterback, Chuck Ealey. His 12,291 passing yards is fifth best for a franchise that has many great quarterbacks. None of Jonas’ CFL teams, however, would get to the Grey Cup championship with him at the helm.

His final CFL totals are 977 completions on 1930 attempts for 15064 yards and 98 TDs versus 130 interceptions.

Coaching career

Jonas continued on in football as the voluntary, then permanent head coach of the new football program at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL. The Knights won six of their eight games in 1979, but only won eight in the next two seasons. At the time Jonas coached, the Knights were in NCAA Division II.[1]

Later years

Jonas is now semi-retired, working part-time at an auto-glass replacement shop and playing golf. He has done radio broadcasts of Central Florida football games and had a radio sports talk show for three years.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
UCF Knights (Independent) (1979–1981)
1979 UCF 6–2
1980 UCF 4–4–1
1981 UCF 4–6
UCF: 14–12–1
Total: 14–12–1
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title



  1. ^ a b "The Birth of Saturday Knights Live: Part 1 of 8 - The History of UCF Football". University of Central Florida Athletics Association. 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2011-02-05.