Not every NFL player gets to play 20 years like Tom Brady. Most won’t play five seasons. But for a select few, they’ll have one season, game or play that is truly historic. This offseason, we’ll highlight those special NFL performances in our “Moment of Glory” series.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham couldn’t have known in 1951 that his audible — sure to make famously serious coach Paul Brown angry — would still be historically significant nearly 70 years later.
Browns halfback William “Dub” Jones had already scored five touchdowns against the Chicago Bears. Six was the NFL record. Jones is 95 years old and still remembers Graham changing a run play and airing it out to him, hoping to get him his sixth score. It was a 43-yard touchdown.
“Paul Brown is certainly not one to have a record in mind,” Jones said. “He wasn’t involved in that.”
Through 100 seasons of the NFL, only three men have scored six touchdowns in a game. Two were Hall of Famers: Chicago Cardinals fullback Ernie Nevers in 1929 and Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers in 1965. The other was Jones, a good player who had one of the greatest performances in NFL history.
Since that day in 1951, even with the explosion of offensive football over the years, nobody has ever scored more touchdowns in one game. Only Sayers has matched it.
“I am proud of that,” Jones said.
Dub Jones had one of the biggest games ever
Jones was a good player before 1951. Just not one who was likely to set a notable NFL touchdown record that would still stand in 2020.
Jones had 11 touchdowns and 842 yards from scrimmage in 1950. For that era, it was a big season.
Jones scored 12 touchdowns in 1951, and half of them came in one game. He’d end up being first-team All-Pro that season, due mostly to one of the greatest games ever.
Jones wanted to make one thing clear: His record was not a cheap one. The Bears were a tough opponent, coming into the game at 6-2. The Browns were 7-1. The sixth touchdown came on Graham’s audible as the Browns led 35-7, but the other scores came within the flow of a huge showdown that also set an NFL record for most combined penalties in one game.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Jones said.
Jones hit some big plays, too. His day started with a 2-yard rushing touchdown off left tackle. The rest of the scores came on a 34-yard catch, runs of 12, 27 and 43 yards, then the final 43-yard reception. Watching the grainy black-and-white highlights, Jones’ son Bert — who won the 1976 NFL MVP award as quarterback of the Baltimore Colts — marveled at how his dad didn’t have many short scores on his historic day.
“He had some seriously big plays,” Jones said.
Jones said he felt “it was just another game until the fifth touchdown.” Then came historic No. 6. Jones had 116 yards rushing and 80 yards receiving. His six scores and 196 yards came on just 12 touches. He scored each of the final five times he touched the ball, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is unlikely to ever be matched.
Sayers’ six-touchdown day is remembered fondly and often, while Jones’ record day doesn’t have quite the hoopla. Maybe it’s because his accomplishment was more unlikely. It was also in a different era.
“I usually would call my wife after games, and she’d ask, ‘How many touchdowns did you score?’” Jones said. “I had to tell her.”
Jones is asked if he remembers what his wife, to whom he’s still married, said when he told her he got six.
“‘No way,’ probably,” Jones said with a laugh.
Jones was a part of 3 Browns title teams
Jones still follows the NFL closely.
“I’m anxious to see how [Bill} Belichick does without [Tom} Brady,” he says.
While many players from the pre-Super Bowl era might talk about the changes in the game, Jones doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s not different. I still think it’s the same game,” Jones said. “That’s why it’s as good of a game as it is.
“The defenses you see today are the defenses you had in my day, just finely tuned. I think it’s still that game.”
The clips of Jones’ scores display the same skills you’d see from players today. There was a great head-and-shoulder fake to get to the outside for one score, and clever open-field running to the middle of the field on another long score. Jones separating from a cornerback on a long route and Graham dropping in the pass for Jones’ record-tying score is just as pretty today as it was then.
Jones was a big part of a Browns dynasty. He was part of NFL championship teams in 1950, 1954 and 1955. One of three men in NFL history to score six touchdowns in a game still says the biggest game he ever played was the 1950 NFL championship upset of the Los Angeles Rams, who had one of the greatest offenses ever. Jones played 11 years, retiring after the 1955 season. He had a good career, with two Pro Bowls, 41 touchdowns and 5,084 yards. The legendary Brown once called him the best halfback in football.
His biggest claim to fame will always be what he did on Nov. 25, 1951. Of the countless great players who have come along since Jones played, nobody has scored seven touchdowns in a game.
“The record still holds,” Jones said with clear pride.
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