30 – James Jones (1979-1982). James Roosevelt Jones came to Gainesville as a Parade All American in high school. James played running back for Charley Pell‘s Florida Gators from 1979 to 1982, where not only was he a part of the great 1979 to 1980 turnaround, but also “The Catch” against Miami on September 5, 1982. The Catch had to be called The Catch instead of “The Throw”, because it was an ugly pass from QB Wayne Peace. The game winning grab at 1:42 with Miami all but assured the Gators an unexpected win over the hated ‘Canes. Wayne Peace had been harassed all day long by the Hurricane defense–one that featured many future NFL players. This game was the culmination of years of hatred built between the two teams, with Miami defeating Florida throughout most of the previous decade, and with both teams meeting on this day ranked #14 and #15. Wayne Peace saw that his primary receiver was double-covered and that the secondary receiver’s primary spot was cut off and that James Jones had maneuvered to a coffin corner of the end zone. Wayne lobbed the ball where he thought it was too high to catch, but James Jones jumped up and hauled it in…with one hand. This victory launched the Gators into the top ten for their matchup against the might USC Trojans the following week.
James was team captain and first-team All SEC in 1981 and 1982, as well as honorable mention All American and Fergie Ferguson Award winner in 1982. Jones finished with 2,026 yards rushing, 593 yards receiving, 48 yards passing, and 17 TDs (including 1 one-handed TD). As the first RB behind the emerging Great Wall of Florida, James led the team in rushing from 1980 to 1982. James was the 13th overall pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, where he played for the Detroit Lions from 1983 to 1988. James retired out the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 where he played one year alongside fellow Gator John L. Williams.