(BROWNWOOD BULLETIN) The 1976 meteoric rise of Johnny “Lam” Jones from little-known high school sprinter to Olympic gold medalist began in Brownwood.
Starting with the Bluebonnet Relays in mid-March through the UIL state track and field meet in mid-May, Jones blazed a trail that left competitors helpless, compelled unemotional sports writers to become cheerleaders, and prompted fans of all ages to pour out of the grandstands at the state track meet.
Along the way, Jones was timed in 9.05 seconds in the 100-yard dash and 20.7 in the 220 and routinely ran down other anchor runners to win the mile relay with 440-yard splits in the 45- to 46-second range. He also led Lampasas to the Class 3A (present-day 5A) state team championship.
By the final day of July, Jones’ remarkable 1976 track season peaked when he won a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. 4×100-meter relay team. At age 18, he left for Montreal as the youngest athlete from Texas ever to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team. He returned a few weeks later as an Olympic gold medalist, a national celebrity and a Texas icon.
Jones — a member of the University of Texas football and track teams and a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets — died Friday at age 60 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was first diagnosed with cancer of the plasma and bone marrow in 2005. Once 6 feet tall, the cancer and its treatment left Jones standing about 5-9.
Jones wasn’t a magician, but as a Lampasas senior, he performed optical illusions that remain a vivid memory for those who saw him run.
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