Remembering Jon Arnett

Today’s installment of Trojans who died in 2021 looks at Jon Arnett, one of the best tailbacks in USC history.

Arnett died on Jan. 18. He was 85.

Arnett was a true South Los Angeles native: He went to 42nd Street Elementary School; Audubon Middle School, Manual Arts High School and USC. Then he played with the Rams at the Coliseum.

Some excerpts from the 1956 USC yearbook on Jon Arnett:

“As a sophomore, he led the team in scoring, rushing, pass completion percentage, punt returns, pass interceptions and had a 44.4 yard per punt average for the year.

“This last year, as a junior, he scored 108 points and was second in the nation in this category. He led the team in scoring, rushing, total offense, punting average, punt returns, kickoff returns and he led the backs in defensive points.

“Jon was named to the All-PCC team since he led the conference in scoring, punt returns and kickoff returns. Of the opponents that select all-opponent teams, he made those of Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas and UCLA.

“In the Rose Bowl last year he averaged 12.5 yards per carry, completed 2 passes and punted for an amazing 61 yard average.”

Arnett is in the USC Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame and was a five-time Pro Bowl pick. He lettered at USC from 1954-56. His brother, Bob, played at USC in 1957-58.

Arnett was an All-American in 1955 and known to fans as “Jaguar” Jon Arnett. He was the No. 2 pick in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.


49 thoughts on “Remembering Jon Arnett

  1. Thank you, Scott! Arnett was my first Trojan hero. He could do it all & his balance was unbelievable. I urge all Trojans to check out his kickoff returns for the Rams on YouTube. A truly great open field runner, using intelligence, speed and balance. Naturally todays fans think of O. J., Marcus, Bell, Reggie and Bush when they think of great tailbacks — but Jon was right up there with any of them. Just watch him play.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yep. I remember telling my first CYO coach –“I want to play halfback —like Jon Arnett…”

        Liked by 2 people

    1. So true, MG, Arnett was one of the first SC football personalities I heard about, although I did not become a big SC fan until after the 1962 Trojans beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship.

      Pity that we have forgotten John, because watching clips of his play, he was right up there with the 1965 Garrett and 1968 O.J. etc. Maybe he came too early for SC to place him with the ranks of the Heisman winners.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My HS Coach, Tony Ortega, was a RB with Jon. Tong went to Cathedral HS in LA. He was a fantastic Trojan and guided me towards USC on my Football Scholarship
      Magnolia High School Anaheim, Ca
      Bob Jensen #51 LB Co Captain 1969 (1966-69)


  2. I don’t remember much about Jon Arnett I was too young during his prime years at USC and with the Rams, but I can tell he was one heck of a football player.

    He definitely has been forgotten due to all the great running backs that have come through USC.

    Question: Was this guy ever considered for the Heisman Trophy, and if he was what year, and who beat him out for the trophy?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t know if he was considered for the Heisman, but the winners when he was in college were

      1954 Alan Ameche
      1955 Howard ” Hopalong ” Cassidy
      1956 Paul Horning

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Turns out Jon had to sit out half of his senior season for receiving “extra benefits”, along with some other pacific coast conference players.
      The fine print on the newspaper article Scotty included after the Stanford game mentions he had played in his final (fifth?) game at Stanford.
      Scotty, any follow up on this? I was unable to find out what the “extra” benefits entailed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Caleb Williams OU Quarterback was outstanding last night, and so was their entire running game behind a great offensive line.

    Rumors are flying that Caleb Williams is going to transfer to USC because of his strong relationship with Lincoln Riley.

    Personally, I say no way that happens! If it does the entire state of Oklahoma will declare war on USC, and the entire State of California.
    I am sure the big time Oklahoma Oil Boosters will pay him big money under the table to stay at OU.

    I will say this–There is no no question that USC needs a true duel threat qb who has some running speed. The kid coming in 2023 from Los Alamitos is an important piece, but I do think Riley will grab a duel threat QB in the Portal because he wants to win now. Dart will become a good player and will be given an opportunity to play next year, but I don’t think he fits the high standards that Riley is looking for.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nobody currently in portal IMHO that would clearly dominate Dart or Moss.

      Williams is a whole different QB, however. If he enters portal – if – it won’t be ‘bama, it won’t be Ohio State. Texas would be moving down the food chain, so I don’t see that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Okla can’t stand Cali for so many reasons. Taking their coach and staff and some players are just a couple drops in the bucket.

        BTW, where was that tough Oregon defense last night Scottie likes to talk about?

        And how about Small Game Bob Stoops, almost blowing a 30-3 halftime lead?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. No duel threat QB’s in the Portal yet, but remember it is still early. After reading some of Caleb Williams statements after the game it appears he really is considering leaving Oklahoma, and is very close to Lincoln Riley.

    I still will be shocked if he leaves USC. If he does prepare for war with the State of Oklahoma.

    Dart and Moss are good players for the Pac 12 as was Slovis, but I think Riley sets higher standards for his QB’s. I think both will be given a chance in the Spring, but I think a 3rd QB from the transfer portal will be in the mix, and as you know another one is coming from Los Alamitos for the 2023 season.

    Riley wants to win now and fill the Coliseum. If Dart can get it done fine, but Mr. Riley wants options with no patience for a qb that might develop in two years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Still early in the transfer portal- but we need Bru McCoy back who is an amazing football player with size, speed and strength. A good coach like John Mckay might even switch McCoy to linebacker, and he would be very successful there as well.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds as if the people employed by USC in Title IX/Diversity positions would be unemployed if there weren’t Title IX/Diversity positions. Total incompetents. And hate to say it, but losers. The kind who think that if they hadn’t been wronged/bullied/shat on back in the day then they would be doing great things. Safe spaces and all that for coddled 20 year olds.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Back [a long time ago] when I served as a law school dean, the office next to me was occupied by our miserably unhappy State Bar Compliance Officer — the walls were paper thin and, all day long, I could hear crying come out of her office. I’d yell through the wall, “you okay in there, Melissa?” And I’d hear a tearful, “nooooooo.”
        Is that the type you’re referring to, 67?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. MG, I am guessing that a decent worker could have done her job in less than half the time she took.

        Those who can do, those who can’t, check compliance and feel self-important.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. got to watch him in all the home games,offense and defense and special teams…he is/was a gold standard by which all others incl rams time can be measured

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My high school football coach, Tony Ortega, played with Jon at USC. Tony was also a running back from the LA area. He introduced me to Jon in the Coliseum locker room after one of my games in 1967 or 1968. He was a very humble man and had a great handshake!!

    Liked by 2 people

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