|Sport||Track & Field|
Charles "Deacon" Jones may have been small in stature, but that was no deterrent when he suited up for Boys Town.
"Deacon was 134 pounds of pure guts," said George Pfeifer, who coached Jones in football at Boys Town.
As a senior, Jones earned all-state honors in football as a halfback and then as a point guard, helping Boys Town win the Class A state basketball championship.
But where Jones really excelled was on the track.
Jones was the state champion in the mile run, became an All-American at Iowa and was a two-time Olympian.
"Deacon had such a great passion for running," Pfeifer said. "And he was so coachable. He couldn’t get enough of a workout. I would practically have to drag him off the track."
In 1955, Jones became the first African-American NCAA cross country champion and also won an NCAA two-mile title in 1957. He set Big Ten indoor and outdoor records in the one- and two-mile runs, and he still holds the school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The steeplechase made Jones part of the U.S. Olympic teams in 1956 and 1960. Jones was the only American to reach the steeplechase finals in the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia. Four years later, he'd compete in Rome.
"Deacon had a really low resting heartbeat, one of the reasons he had great endurance," Pfeifer said. "His system was so proficient. We ran repeat 440s and he would recover really quick. He just kept going and going."
Jones was a 2006 inductee into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. He died at age 73 in 2007.
Related: Few kept up with Jones
Played for: Boys Town High and Iowa Hawkeyes
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Bob Gibson of Omaha Tech in basketball and baseball
Best moment as an athlete: Competing in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics in track in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Early sign of greatness: When he made the varsity football team at Boys Town as a Freshman.
Jones was No. 44 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »