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Don Jonas
Date of birth: March 12, 1938 (1938-03-12) (age 71)
Place of birth: Scranton, PA, U.S.
Career information
Position(s): Quarterback
College: Penn State
NFL Draft: 1961 / Round: 13 / Pick 182
 As player:
Philadelphia Eagles
Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL)
Playing stats at

Donald Walter Jonas (born March 12, 1938 in Scranton, Pennsylvania) was an American football quarterback in the American minor leagues (semi-pro) and the Canadian Football League.


College football

Jonas played played college football at Penn State University. His first season was 1958, and he did not play (was red-shirted) in 1959. In 1960, as a running back, he ran 49 times for 238 yards (4.9 yard average) and two touchdowns. He also caught six passes, completed 3 of 7 passes, intercepted three opponent passes and returned seven punts. In 1961 he gained 149 yards in 31 attempts (4.8 average) and caught five passes, scoring two touchdowns. He also returned punts and kickoffs.

Proving to be a versatile player, he was drafted by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in the 13th round (182nd overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his time with the Eagles was very short. He played in only one game in the 1962 season.

Coincidentally, his Penn State quarterback Peter Liske would also go on to star in the CFL, playing against Jonas and himself winning the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award in 1967.

Semi-pro football

Jonas turned to minor league football after his brief stint in the NFL. Bearing in mind that in the 1960’s, the days before big player salaries, this was a viable option for a talented football player. Both semi-pro and the CFL offered Jonas playing time and competitive money.

  • 1963 – His first season was with the Harrisburg Capitols of the Atlantic Coast Football League. He started as a receiver, catching 20 passes for 422 yards, but when the quarterback was injured, Jonas stepped up, completing 112 of 233 passes for 1649 yards (11 TDs, 14 interceptions) as well as running for another 455 yards. His team had a 8 win, 3 loss and 1 tie season and Jonas was the Most Valauable Player. He also handled kicking duties, as he would for his entire career.
  • 1964 – Injuries slowed Jonas down, and he only completed 94 of 204 passes for 1264 yards (13 TDs, 16 ints.) Harrisburg was 4-10.
  • 1966 to 1969 – The Newark Bears moved to become the Orlando Panthers, and Jonas continued his greatness. Orlando won 12, 11, 10 and 10 games in those seasons, winning the championship in 1967 and 1968, and losing in the final in 1966. Don Jonas was three time consecutive MVP, from 1966 to 1968. His biggest year, in 1967, saw him throw 407 passes, hitting 203 of them for 3446 yards and 41 TDs, with 21 picks.

His career minor league stats were 1032 completions in 2085 attempts for 17,183 yards and 171 TDs and 130 interceptions, with 4 MVP awards. His only weakness was his somewhat low completion percentage. In 1967 the NFL’s Denver Broncos offered him a contract, but it most certainly paid him less than his MVP Orlando salary. And, by the time the Continental Football League folded Jonas was the over the age of 30, so Canada was his best option.

Canadian Football League

Jonas’ first season in the Canadian Football League, 1970, was with the Toronto Argonauts, where he was teamed up with Tom Wilkinson. His 124 completions, 256 passes for 2041 yards (and 17 TDs versus 25 ints) did not help the 5-8-1 team.

Moving to the wild western division, Jonas excelled. With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1971, he hit 253 of 485 passes for a stunning 4036 yards with 27 TDs and 31 picks. It was another MVP, as Jonas won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award.

He would play two more full seasons for the Bombers, before, surprisingly, being traded part way through 1974 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for their star QB, Chuck Ealey. His 12,291 passing yards is fifth best for a franchise that has many great quarterbacks. Unfortunately, none of Jonas’ CFL teams would get to the Grey Cup championship with him at the helm.

His final CFL totals are 977 completions on 1930 throws for 15064 yards and 98 TDs versus 130 interceptions.

After football

Jonas continued on in football as voluntary and then full coach of the new University of Central Florida Golden Knight football team (in Orlando.) They won 6 of their 8 games in 1979, but only won 7 in the next 2 seasons Jonas coached (in NCAA Division II.)

Jonas is now semi-retired, working part-time at an auto-glass replacement shop and playing golf. He has done radio broadcasts of Central Florida football games and had a radio sports talk show for three years.

The Question

As Bob Gill queried, is Don Jonas the best quarterback not to play in the NFL? Well, all time professional passing yards leader Damon Allen, or CFL legend and opponent Ron Lancaster, or even present day Montreal Alouettes Anthony Calvillo may disagree. They all have more passing yards than his career 32,247 total. Perhaps the best comparison is with Doug Flutie. Jonas played 12 non NFL seasons and won two championships and 5 MVP awards. Flutie played 9 non NFL seasons, winning 3 championships and 6 CFL's Most Outstanding Player Awards.

But, being the company of Doug Flutie is high praise, indeed.


Bob Gill, “The Best Little Quarterback You Never Heard Of” on the Professional Football Researchers Association website.



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