Weekend Renaissance Man

Jonathan Claiborne acts, motorcycles and provides color commentary for Terrapins football

Published in 2008 Maryland Super Lawyers — January 2008

Although Jonathan Claiborne’s father, Jerry, was the legendary head coach of the University of Maryland Terrapins football team 30 years ago, his son got no favors. Despite being a good high school athlete, he was a walk-on for the college team.

But he worked hard, became a two-year starter at free safety, played in three bowl games and won the Talbot T. Speer Award for leadership, scholarship and athletic ability. The Terps were 28-7-1 during his varsity playing career, capped by a victory over the Minnesota Gophers in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

Certainly his sporting past has influenced his success as a litigator. With both sports and the law, says the Whiteford, Taylor & Preston partner, “you’re watching things unfold in front of you, and you have to be able to think on the fly, to adapt quickly to change.”

His key to success, he says, “is being organized, and having good time-management skills.”

He needs them. Besides lawyering, Claiborne has appeared in 20 community theater productions, including a role as the fastidious Felix Unger in a Spotlighters Theatre production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. A half-dozen weekends a year you’ll also find him riding his motorcycle, a 1200 Sportster, through the Maryland countryside with a crew from Whiteford. “It’s a great way to relieve stress,” he says.

Then, on a dozen autumn Saturdays, Claiborne is the color analyst on radio broadcasts of Terrapin football, working alongside play-by-play man Johnny Holliday.

“My job is to try to fill in some of the gaps, to provide a little insight to an audience who can only hear the action,” he says. “Once you’re into the rhythm of the game, you get a sense of what needs to be said.

“Football is very different from other sports,” he explains. In baseball, the action can be glacial. In basketball, the action is constant. His job, he says, “is to entertain with stories and anecdotes.”

Sometimes he might even recall his own days patrolling the defensive backfield: anticipating a play, maybe getting burned, maybe returning an interception for a touchdown.

When you’ve faced receivers bigger and stronger than you, what’s to fear from opposing counsel?

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