The pride of Clawson

By: Timothy Pontzer | Royal Oak Review | Published September 19, 2017

DETROIT — Roughly 20 minutes from where he grew up, Jon Jansen found himself accepting one of the highest honors of his career.

The former Clawson High three-sport star was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Sept. 15 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. While many at the event lauded his later accomplishments with the University of Michigan and in the NFL, Jansen made sure to highlight where it all began.

“Clawson is what made me. It has always been my home,” the 1994 graduate said before the ceremony. “I live in Petoskey now, but my hometown is Clawson. Every time something good or bad has happened in my life, teammates, classmates and just people from the community of Clawson always reach out.”

A standout offensive tackle, Jansen spent three years on the Trojans’ varsity roster before starting with Michigan. He helped lead the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship before an 11-year pro career with the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions.

“Growing up in Clawson, I didn’t think something like this would ever happen,” Jansen remarked. “Every kid has a dream, and I wanted to play football. I wanted to play at Michigan and in the NFL, and I was able to make that happen. But I can never anticipate an award like this. I had some unbelievable coaches that helped me.”

A pair of Jansen’s prep coaches, Richard Moore and John Maloney, attended the ceremony, both sharing hugs and memories with their former pupil. Jansen had high praise for both, citing them as mentors who aided his early development.

“I think high school coaches are extremely important because they shape kids,” Jansen explained. “They get their hands on kids at such an important time in their lives. For me to have coaches like those guys, it really set me up and gave me the tools to have success.”

Moore spent 21 years helming the Trojans on the gridiron. He said Jansen was, without question, the most gifted athlete to ever suit up for him. Jansen played tight end at Clawson before moving to tackle at Michigan.

“(Jansen) was a tremendous player and a tremendous person, and absolutely one of the most talented kids to ever play at Clawson,” Moore said. “Some players let themselves build an ego because of their accolades, but he never did. He did every sprint, every gauntlet and never asked for any special treatment — a real team-first guy.”

While Jansen earned All-State honors twice at Clawson, Moore pointed to Jansen’s leadership as one of his most valuable qualities.

“He was so gifted, but he was an outstanding leader. He made everyone better around him,” Moore said. “On top of that, he was incredibly smart. He was like a coach out on the field. He could explain concepts to others and what they needed to do in every single situation.”

Jansen helped the Trojans to back-to-back Macomb-Oakland Athletic Conference titles in 1992 and 1993. He was successful on the hardwood as well, most notably leading Clawson on a deep playoff run during his sophomore season.

“One of the things I remember most is my sophomore year when we went to the state semifinals and played at Crisler Center,” Jansen said. “I go into that arena all the time now, and I never go in there without remembering that run. That’s a great example of the support Clawson gave us. We had buses of fans, and I remember my church canceled a service when we played on a Wednesday night to come see us play.”

Maloney coached the Clawson basketball team from 1992 to 1998. He fondly recalls Jansen for both of his skill set and leadership.

“(Jansen) is the most well-rounded player I ever had in my 38 years of coaching,” Maloney said. “Because he was the best player, he was highly respected by the school and the whole community, but he didn’t let that faze him. He had very solid leadership skills.”

Jansen was named to the Class of 2017 in the state’s Hall of Fame along with former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, Oakland University men’s basketball coach Greg Kampe, writer Mitch Albom, former Michigan State University football player Andre Rison, former Detroit Piston Dennis Rodman and former Michigan basketball star Jalen Rose.

“I grew up watching the Bad Boys with Rodman, I loved the Fab Five, and the star power of these other inductees is unbelievable,” Jansen said. “This is right there with the honor I received from the Redskins because of the great tradition here and the national championship. The only thing that would top it was being elected captain at Michigan by my teammates.”

Jansen was named one of the 80 greatest Redskins of all time after the club’s 80th anniversary in 2012.

Scott Lesher serves as chairman of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He said Jansen was an obvious choice, as he checks off all the boxes.

“Jansen has done work in every aspect. He’s a high school star, went on to do great things at Michigan and obviously the pros,” Lesher explained.

Lesher recalled his own personal experience with Jansen. Lesher served as the defensive coordinator for St. Clair Shores South Lake in 1994 and distinctly remembers facing him.

“We played Clawson, and we prepped all week to stop Jon Jansen,” Lesher said. “I think he still scored three touchdowns.”

Jansen said he is proud to represent his tight-knit town, adding that he would have never have reached the heights he did without it. The day before the ceremony, Jansen took his children through his old stomping grounds.

“We went over to the high school and the house I grew up in,” Jansen said. “The nice thing is that Clawson is always home. There’s things that change, but when you go down Elmwood or you turn onto 14 Mile, it’s always a constant.”

He added that despite Clawson’s small size, it’s a perfect place to grow up.

“Clawson is such a small town, especially when you have Troy, Royal Oak, Southfield and others around it that are big,” Jansen explained. “But Clawson is a place you know everybody. A lot of my friends still live in Clawson, and I know it is a place I will always love.”

His old coach agreed.

“(Jansen) understands what Clawson is all about,” Moore said. “He’s done so much for Clawson and he’s never forgot where he came from.”