May 29, 2003
This is another "B" Line column, a periodic collection of news items of particular interest to members of the Baylor "B" Association. Contribute news about you or your teammates via e-mail to Lee Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dutch Schroeder (Dutch_Schroeder@baylor.edu), Reba Cooper (Reba_Cooper@baylor.edu) or Jack Loftis (Jack.Loftis@chron.com). The mailing address is Baylor "B" Association, P. O. Box 8120, Waco, TX 76714.
When former high school coach Mitchell D. Jetton, 80, died in his East Texas hometown of Center on May 24, all longtime Baylor football fans should have sent flowers.
He was the man responsible for running back Del Shofner and lineman Charlie Bradshaw, two of the greatest players who ever put on the Green & Gold, to excel for the Center High School Roughriders in the early '50s and eventually make their ways to Baylor.
Contacted at his home in California, Shofner said he owed everything in his athletic career to Jetton.
And that was a lot. In addition to football, the gifted Shofner also played basketball and baseball and was a sprinter in track for Baylor. Following his years as a Bear, he went on to play for the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL.
Bradshaw, who recently lost his life to cancer, also advanced his career to the pros, performing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions.
And how involved in the lives of Shofner and Bradshaw was their high school coach?
Shofner says when his father lost his job in Center the family kept its home there but moved to Hempstead where the senior Shofner found work.
"I was a sophomore and came home one afternoon and found Coach Jetton talking to my dad," Shofner recalls. "He said, 'Martin, I believe Del can go to college on a basketball scholarship and I wish you would move back to Center.'"
After Shofner explained his employment situation to the coach, Jetton told him he would be back in touch soon. He did - two days later - and told Shofner a job was waiting for him in Center.
Man of many sports . . .
After his senior basketball season for the Roughriders, Shofner played in the high school all-star game and accepted a Baylor scholarship. Once on campus, coaches almost fought over the talented athlete, each wanting him to concentrate on his particular sport. Eventually, football won out and in his senior year Shofner helped lead the Bears to a 13-7 victory over Tennessee in the 1957 Sugar Bowl.
Shofner said his father later asked Jetton why he thought basketball would be his son's best sport - and not football?
After thinking for a moment, Jetton allegedly said, "Well . . . he just kept getting better (in football)."
Jetton's son, Steve, who holds an undergraduate degree and a law degree from Baylor and is now an assistant managing editor for The Houston Chronicle, remembers that his mother and father also worked closely with Bradshaw's family while Charlie was a Roughrider. He said they would take turns delivering Bradshaw back to his rural home after football practice because Charlie's father did not want him participating in sports and furnishing him the rides home was part of the deal that allowed him to play.
A tall, slim tackle when he arrived at Baylor, Bradshaw - also on the '57 Sugar Bowl team - continued to grow, even after entering the NFL. Following his pro career he returned to Baylor and earned a law degree and was living in the Dallas area at the time of his death.
A community leader . . .
According to his obituary, Mitchell Jetton was a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University. Following service in the Navy during World War II, he became a teacher and coach, first working in Jasper for three years before returning home to Center. He coached the Roughriders for nine years and then joined American General Life Insurance Co. in 1959 as an underwriter.
Always active in community affairs, Jetton was a past-president of the Center Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Stephen F. Austin Lettermen's Association and Center Roughriders Quarterback Club.
He also served as a member of the Center City Council, Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, the Stephen F. Austin Alumni Board, Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library Board and the board of the Shelby County Unit of the American Cancer Society.
In 1996, the SFA Alumni Association honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award. He also was given the Distinguished Service Award by the Chamber of Commerce in 1983, was elected to the Center High School Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Roughrider Wall of Honor by the Center Athletic Boosters Club.
Among his survivors are Virginia, his wife of 56 years; son Steve and daughters Marcia Alderman of Commerce and Michele Black of Longview.
One of his grandsons, Michael Black, is a BU graduate who is now employed by the Baylor Department of Alumni Services.
Funeral services for the man whose coaching skills certainly benefited Baylor were held on May 27 at First Baptist Church of Center.
BAYLOR "B" ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR
CHAIRMAN, COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE