LAMPASAS — It was simply his way of saying, “Thank you.”
After an outpouring of support from his small town of Lampasas helped him achieve unfathomable dreams more than three decades ago, Johnny “Lam” Jones recently attempted to return the favor in the only way he knew how.
The former Badgers standout, whose blazing speed and dazzling athleticism led Lampasas to its lone state track and field championship in 1976 before taking him to the Olympics and NFL, donated numerous pieces of memorabilia from his personal collection to his high school alma mater.
He merely had an urge to give back.
“If it wasn’t for Lampasas, none of this would have happened,” Jones said. “All the support we got as a team at the state meet and all the support we got on my journey to try and make the Olympic team, this is where it needs to be, and maybe some of the kids here will see that dreams do happen.”
On a whim, Jones presented Lampasas with the uniform he wore at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where he won a gold medal as part of the United States’ 400-meter relay team, along with his Olympic bib, helmets from his days playing football for the Texas Longhorns and New York Jets and multiple framed and signed photographs.
For Lampasas athletic director Brian Emerson, the generosity is overwhelming.
“To be allowed to exhibit this memorabilia is an honor,” he said. “Obviously, it also goes to show how much the community of Lampasas and Lampasas High School mean to him.
“To have mementos that have such sentimental value and want to share them with this school and allow people in the community to see those, that is very impressive.”
Before becoming the second overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, Jones was a teenage legend on the track, developing a cult-like following in Central Texas. His come-from-behind performance in the anchor leg of the 1,600 relay at the 1976 state track meet remains one of the most mesmerizing moments in Texas track and field history, developing into an act of mythical proportions over the years.
Later that summer, the community of Lampasas helped raise money to send the 18-year-old to various meets around the country as he attempted to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
He went on to finish sixth in the 100 and ran the second leg for the first-place 400 relay team that set a world record with a time of 38.33.
“It all happened during his senior year of high school,” Emerson said. “We all think back to our high school years, and that last year is just a blur with all kinds of things happening. Imagine winning a state championship, getting ready to go to the University of Texas to play football and going to Montreal to compete in the Olympics.
“I look at these things and it’s neat, but what it must mean to him and to the people that were here at that time, it is really tremendous.”
In exchange for the keepsakes, Jones simply hopes to possibly inspire current and future Lampasas athletes.
“This is where these things should be,” he said. “These kids need to know they can accomplish these kinds of things and a lot more.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org