Jones runs the ball during a game against Vanderbilt University. The photo appeared in a Dec. 5, 1984 special publication of The Leader.

Whenever the Tennessee Volunteers football team has a bad game, Johnnie Jones said he hears a lot of cajoling from other people.

“People will always say something,” said Jones with a wide grin. “Especially when they play Alabama. People will joke with me and talk about my college days.”

This is because Jones was the leading rusher for the University of Tennessee under coach Johnny Majors from 1981-85 and was a contender of the Heisman trophy his senior season. In one of his most famous plays, he ran for 66 yards to snap a tie and give Tennessee an upset win over the University of Alabama in 1983.


Jones grew up in Munford and went to Munford High School where he was a star athlete. He originally wanted to be a mechanic and went to UTK on a football scholarship still with these intentions.

After some injuries to other running backs, Jones got his day in the spotlight and became one of the best running backs in the school’s lengthy football history. He became the first 1,000-yard rusher for UT and was the most valuable player in the Citrus Bowl. Jones said his favorite game was against Vanderbilt University where he hit 1,000 yards.

Jones was a Heisman Trophy candidate.

“The offensive line wanted it as much as I did,” said Jones. “They would keep telling me how many yards I had to go.”

Despite his success in a wildly popular sport, Jones said he has always been a simple guy and would call home to talk to his family a lot, preferring the quiet, small town life to everything else. Even after Seattle drafted him in the fifth round, Jones still kept his old truck he had in high school and still has the truck to this day.

After playing professional football for a while, Jones came back home in 1991 and wanted to go into law enforcement. It was then that he became a resource officer for the school system and has been there for six years working often with troubled youth. He is married to Trena Jones and has three daughters, one of whom goes to Munford Middle School.

He also works with the running backs at MHS in his spare time. Even though his football days are over, he still goes to UT football games when he can, especially to see former players and friends. Many of his previous football records have been broken since he played but someare still there including the record with all-time rushing attempts per game with 41 attempts and 248 yards in 1983. He is the fourth all-time in career rushing with 2,852 yards.

Jones said he does not miss living in the limelight of his college football days and enjoys being back in his hometown.

“Every time you go somewhere, you see somebody you know,” said Jones. “There is no other place like that for me. Even when I was away, I stayed on the phone and tried to know what was going on here. I went places where I didn’t know a soul and I missed my family. I’m so glad to be back.”

Considering his work ethic and infectiously upbeat personality, the people of Tipton County are glad Jones is back as well.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.