Jon Arnett is a three-year letterman (1954-55-56) at USC. He was All-American in 1955 and played in the 1955 Rose Bowl. He was Captain of the USC football team in 1956. He won the prestigious Voit Award, given to the top player on the west coast in 1955 and 1956. Jon was elected into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Arnett’s style was apparent to anyone who had the privilege of seeing him play. Incredible balance, breakaway speed, uncanny elusiveness was some of the trait Arnett credits to natural talent.
Arnett talents were naturally appreciated by others and if didn’t that long for Jaguar Jon to emerge to prominence.
USC was a natural choice for Arnett to continue his football playing exploits.He originally signed on to get Aramis Dandoy's autograph. It didn’t take long for the autograph seekers to start lining up for Mr. Arnett’s signature. Jon began his career in scintillating fashion, only to suffer a life altering injury during his sophomore season.
Returning as a junior, Jon developed into what was then known as a triple threat man. He ran the ball, caught the ball, and even passed the ball with great effectiveness. Arnett’s duties for the Trojans also require he play on the defensive side of the ball.
Arnett’s junior year, 1955, was magnificent. He scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. All-American honors were bestowed on Jon and serious talk of the 1956 Heisman began. It was not to be however as Jon's senior year proved both triumph and tragedy.
A scandal involving under the table payments to athletes at SC, UCLA, California, and Washington broke. Arnett was found to be one of the players receiving money and was suspended for half the season. Many still believe that the suspension cost him the 1956 Heisman Trophy.
Jon went on to an outstanding career in the NFL with the Los Angles Rams and Chicago Bears. Although the beginning of his career was a little ostentatious, one day at a restaurant in LA he met Keith Quinlan, who was an All-Pro Guard for the Rams. He told him that the Rams would like to draft him and Jon asked, “What’s that mean?”
Jon Arnett ws the number one draft choice. He was selected with the overall number two pick by the Rams, ahead of Jim Brown.
Arnett’s had a great career with the Rams from 1957-1963. He was selected to play in the Pro-Bowl five straight years 1957-61.
Jon left LA in 1964 to play in the Windy City. His tenure there lasted only three years, but it was enough for “Papa Bear” George Halas to make the comment that Arnett was the greatest back he ever had. Jon responded, “I think he had a short memory. I caught him late in his career and the game had gone by him a little bit. We didn’t win many games. Coach Halas was a fun guy. He liked me, and we got along great, but we really didn’t have a head coach while I was in Chicago. I loved it there. The fans were so much more appreciative“.
I was curious about Jon wearing #21 with the Bears after being so closely identified with # 26 for his college and professional career. “I wore #30 in high school then was issued 26 at USC. When I got to Chicago, a defensive back had #26. He asked me if I wanted it, and I said,”not necessary.”
Jon’s later years have proven just as successful as his football days. He runs a distribution service and supplies frozen foods to Costco, Sam’s Club, and Wal-Mart. After living for many years in Palos Verdes, the Arnett’s recently moved to Oregon.
One aspect of moving to the Pacific Northwest will be leaving his beloved Trojans behind. “I feel very close to the university. You know what they say; You’re a Trojan for life. And you are. Being a Trojan has helped me so much in business. Going there was the best thing I ever did. I follow the team. I mostly go to the home games. I attend some pre-game parties and watch the first half. I leave at half time and with some luck, usually only miss about 2 or 3 minutes of the second half and watch the rest of the game from home. I’m a huge fan of both the team and Pete Carroll. I’m going to have to get to the Oregon game this fall.”
When asked if he was aware that there are still legions of fans who consider him the greatest Trojan of them all even 50 years after he played he would humbly say, “That’s always nice to hear.”
OTHER USC FOOTBALL NEWS
USC FOOTBALL NEWS