State Rep. Charles “Don” Clemons has had multiple careers in his life, including 24 years with the Bridgeport fire department and 11 years in the state legislature.
As he is leaning toward retiring from the legislature, the 61-year-old Clemons recently recalled yet another phase of his life: his playing days in 1975 on the taxi squad of the New York Jets professional football team.
As a wide receiver who weighed only 205 pounds at the time and could run the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, Clemons caught passes in scrimmages from one of the most famous quarterbacks in football history: Hall of Famer Joe Namath.
“Lou Holtz was the coach. That was the only year he coached [professionally] – 1975,’’ Clemons told Capitol Watch in an interview. “Joe Namath. Rich Caster. John Riggins. I hung out for a few months with those guys.’’
The team played at the longtime practice facility at Hofstra University on Long Island back in Namath’s heyday. Clemons was a member of the so-called taxi squad, which was the practice team.
After his tenure with the Jets, Clemons got a tryout with the Washington Redskins under another Hall of Famer: coach George Allen.
Those playing days were long before Clemons entered the state legislature in 2003, representing his home city.
A departure by Clemons would open the door for the possible return of former state Rep. Ernie Newton, a Democrat who has expressed interest in returning to Hartford. Newton’s return would be controversial because he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of accepting a $5,000 bribe, evading taxes and pilfering campaign contributions to pay for car repairs and personal cellphone calls.
Longtime federal judge Alan H. Nevas, a former state legislator who sentenced Newton, said at the time that “it is inconceivable to me that anyone who serves in the General Assembly could make a business out of it, and that’s what you did. … You sold your office.”
Clemons, though, said his decision would not be based on Newton’s intentions.
“I don’t know his story,’’ Clemons told Capitol Watch. “I don’t talk to him. Ernie Newton has no bearing on my decision to run or not to run. To be candid with you, I’m leaning toward not seeking reelection.’’