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

By Tim Twentyman

Posted 22 hours ago

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.


February 18th, 2012, 10:45 pm
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Post Re: Don Clemons is retiring.
The fact that Don Clemons has survived 9 head coaches and several GM regimes tells me there's more to the story than we've ever been told. I've often wondered why he's been spared when other very capable assistants were let go.

I don't know if he's an old friend of WCF, or, if he's got compromising pictures of Ford with the family dog. Regardless, I seriously doubt that this team is going to miss his expertise.

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March 3rd, 2012, 3:22 pm
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Post Re: Don Clemons is retiring.
LionFan57 wrote:
The fact that Don Clemons has survived 9 head coaches and several GM regimes tells me there's more to the story than we've ever been told. I've often wondered why he's been spared when other very capable assistants were let go.

I don't know if he's an old friend of WCF, or, if he's got compromising pictures of Ford with the family dog. Regardless, I seriously doubt that this team is going to miss his expertise.


Not to whizz in your Cheerios LF57, but it could also be that he was recognized league wide as being one of the absolute best at that particular position, and every new regime was happy to have him. However, I do agree that it will have little impact on how this team fares in the future.

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March 3rd, 2012, 4:56 pm
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Post Re: Don Clemons is retiring.
m2karateman wrote:
LionFan57 wrote:
The fact that Don Clemons has survived 9 head coaches and several GM regimes tells me there's more to the story than we've ever been told. I've often wondered why he's been spared when other very capable assistants were let go.

I don't know if he's an old friend of WCF, or, if he's got compromising pictures of Ford with the family dog. Regardless, I seriously doubt that this team is going to miss his expertise.


Not to whizz in your Cheerios LF57, but it could also be that he was recognized league wide as being one of the absolute best at that particular position, and every new regime was happy to have him. However, I do agree that it will have little impact on how this team fares in the future.


He never had a lock on one position. Over the years he held many differant lower level coaching / assistant positions. He floated around quite a bit. So I don't see him as the 'absolute best' at anything.

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March 4th, 2012, 8:16 am
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Post Re: Don Clemons is retiring.
WOW. Almost a full month after I posted it before anyone responded to it. LOL.


March 4th, 2012, 10:01 am
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Post Re: Don Clemons is retiring.
I've often wondered why Don Clemons had a job for 27 years myself. He worked for 9 head coaches during his tenure, which is unbelieveable since most coaches want to bring in their own guys. He's also bounced from position to position, so you can't say that he excelled at what he did either. While I've speculated that he had some dirt on Ford like LF57 did, I think it's more a case of Ford's loyalty. Look at how long he stuck with Fontes and Millen, as an example. He probably just liked the guy or had a conection with his family and promised Clemons a job for as long as he wanted it. I don't believe it was anything more than that.

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March 10th, 2012, 11:43 pm
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