After 27 years with the Lions, Don Clemons is calling it a career

Posted Feb 17, 2012

After 27 years and nine different coaching regimes, longtime Lions defensive assistant coach Don Clemons, 58, is calling it a career.

Clemons served on the staffs of Jim Schwartz, Rod Marinelli, Dick Jauron, Steve Mariucci, Marty Mornhinweg, Gary Moeller, Bobby Ross, Wayne Fontes and Darryl Rodgers over his nearly three decades with the organization.

"Don Clemons has been one of the great contributors to the Lions organization," said team president Tom Lewand.

"He has served nine head coaches, and particularly in our business, that tells you what kind of person and what kind of worker Don Clemons is.

"Nine head coaches have seen his value as a person and as a football coach, and I do it in that order, because as good of a coach as he's been for us, he's been a better person."

Since 1985, when he joined the Lions as a defensive assistant and strength and conditioning coach, Clemons has coached every position on defense.

"Well, Dick Modzelewski, who I worked with when I first started here, he had played and coached for a long time and he retired the third or fourth year I was here and I asked him, ‘Dick, what are you retiring for?' and he said, ‘You just know, and when it comes you just look around at the people and know its time to let someone else do it.'"

After 35 years coaching, Clemons said he knew it was that time.

"Another friend told me not do anything for four months, relax, and after that, you'll have a better idea of what you want to do," he said of his immediate plans for retirement.

Clemons is certainly looking forward to the next four months of relaxation, and is excited to spend more time with wife Shawn and sons Scot and Corey.

Coaching hours are long hours and Clemons said he missed a lot of his son's activities and sporting events growing up. He's looking forward to making up for some of that lost time in retirement.

"I've really enjoyed every part of it and I've been lucky to do it this long at any level," he said. "I would have been happy to be at Northern Lehigh High School this long."

Reflecting back on 27 years with the Lions, Clemons said the 1991 season stood out more than any other.

"We went 12-4 and went to the NFC Championship Game," he said. "It probably, in my mind, was one of the more magical seasons that we had.

"A lot of things had to go right, and did go right for us to win, and I think we surprised a lot of people. There were some unique things and some tragic things that happen that year and the way Wayne (Fontes) kept it all together was amazing "

Clemons hasn't ruled out a future in coaching completely, though. He said he'd like to work with children and possibly coach at the younger levels.

He said he feels good about where this Lions team and current coaching staff are headed.

"I think the pieces are here to move forward and I think a lot of credit has to go with coaches, but Martin (Mayhew) and his group of scouts have done a tremendous job of finding the talent and keeping the place stocked and it wasn't an easy process," he said. "The team still needs some pieces, but it's a pretty strong team."

Clemons is remaining on staff through the month to help with the NFL Draft Combine.

"I think it's a testament to Don that there isn't a person who has been through the Silver Dome or through our Allen Park facility that doesn't call Don Clemons a friend," Lewand said.