Sun Devil Summer School: The Stars of the 1950s - John Jankans

Posted: Updated:

The history of Arizona State football is filled with wonderful tidbits, accolades and other sorts of time-consuming trivial details.

We all know the Sun Devil responsible for breaking the NCAA sacks record. 

Of course, Terrell Suggs. Too easy.

Who finished third in the 1996 Heisman Trophy voting?

Jake “The Snake”! Come on!

Agreed, there are some fun facts that are essentially common knowledge among the Sun Devil faithful, but perhaps this one will thrill and stump gatherers at your next maroon and gold mixer:

Who is the only football player in program history to earn first-team all-conference honors all four years he played?

Suggs again?

Pssh…he only did it twice.

Darren Woodson? Had to be him!

Never better than honorable mention!

Woody Green? Randall McDaniel? Danny White? Ron Pritchard? Mike Haynes? Curley Culp?

No, no, no, no, no. And no.

One of the lesser-known superstars in Arizona State football history, nearly 60 years after his four-year run, lineman John Jankans remains the only player to garner first-team all-league recognition as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, doing so when the Devils were a member of the Border Conference.

For additional reference, according to ASU’s football media guide only 12 players in school history beside Jankans have been three-time first-team all-conference honorees, making his achievement even more impressive.

A physical freak with athletic talents as large as his imposing stature, Jankans created paths for the likes of Leon Burton and Bobby Mulgado, while helping drive the Sun Devils to a Border Conference championship in 1952 and an 8-2-1 final standing in 1955.

Primarily a left tackle for the Sun Devils, Jankans switched to guard his sophomore season before flipping back to tackle for the remainder of his career.  In addition to his conference accolades, Jankans was elected a team captain as a senior in 1955 playing for eventual College Football Hall of Fame head coach Dan Devine in his first season in Tempe.

Ben Foote of The Reading Eagle gave his account of the Pennsylvania native in the Dec. 21, 1955 edition of the publication: 

“Playing tackle for Arizona State, Jankans was particularly adept at pulling from the left side to get out in front of ball carriers for right end sweeps, and he also was one of the West’s best linemen on straight head power blocks.”

Playing in the iron man days of two-way football, Jankans also brought an unmatched level of aggressiveness to the defensive side where he excelled in wrecking plays in the opposing backfield.

Once his playing days were done for the Devils, Jankans was chosen in the 11th round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.

Jankans was inducted into ASU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, the first offensive lineman in program history to receive such an honor from the school.