I called him Don. I never called him dad my whole life. I really wanted his attention. I kind of self-diagnosed myself. I started jumping cars.
[Jeff Clay is able to leap motor vehicles in a single bound.]
I found that I had a very unusual jumping ability as a young teenager. I was winning first place in the high jump, long jump, and hurdles. His philosophy there with where he was, is thats all stupid. It’s going to fade away. Nobody cares. It may be true but you don’t tell your kid that if they have dreams and aspirations, right? When I would look at the colleges, those guys were only jumping 6’4 and 6’6. Dwight Stones was winning the Olympics at 7”6 and I was a senior in high school easily jumping seven feet. With my inferiority complex, I didn’t go to college because I was afraid of failure. My mom was the only one who did believe in me. Dad was just not there emotionally for any of us. He abandoned us a number of times.
He was making me pay rent for my own room while he was sitting there not working. I was tripping over him to go to work to pay rent at the house.
[Jeff’s first auto jump took place over the family Volkswagon. He's been jumping ever since. Today’s personal record of one hundred consecutive jumps doubled his prior record of fifty. It took him only thirty-eight minutes to complete the feat. What did the observers think? “It’s really weird. I don’t think anybody else could do it.”]
I probably would never have jumped another car, it wasn’t that big of a deal to me, but a neighbor came out and said, “Oh my God! Jeff Clay, can you do that again? Charlie, come here, you’ve got to see this!”
Something struck in me that, wow, maybe I am something, I can be somebody. At that time I was wanting to get into commercials. Again, that insecurity was driving me. I wanted to be famous because I didn’t feel like I was much of anything. I thought that would validate me too.
We have another guy out there tonight. His name is Jeff Clay. Hi Jeff. How are you?
Dave, I’m doing great, thanks.
You’re going to jump over, actually, hurdle a series of three automobiles on 53rd street. Is that correct?
That’s correct Dave.
You have been doing this for thirty years?
Yes sir, thirty years.
Jeff Clay is featured in this publication of Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Is that so? He’s in there? He’s in there. For the most number of hurdles over a car? No, he ate a thousand donuts in a minute. One. Two. Three. Alright! Nice going, Jeff. Attaboy.
When I was on the Letterman Show, he asked me, “Hey, could you do one with a car speeding at you?” We laughed. I was really too old to do that.
Between seventeen years old and twenty-five when I set the Guinness Book World of Records, I genuinely started searching. I had no purpose in my life, none. I had stuff but it obviously doesn’t make you happy. So, I gave my life to the Lord. I continued hearing the Holy Spirit through His word say, “Forgive”. It happened so often, so frequently to the point that I was like, “Okay, God. I get it. Okay.” I don’t have any anger toward anybody. I forgive everybody. How can I hold unforgiveness toward anybody for you forgave me completely? How can I do that? In that same fraction of a second, another word from the Lord came and said, “Honor your father.” I’m telling you, it would not have hurt me more if you had taken a heated sword and pierced my heart. How dare you ask me to forgive that man. How dare you! You know, he wasn’t there for me. He’s not even due any honor. He did nothing for me.
Are you able to incorporate hurdling cars in your job?
Well, in a roundabout way, I motivate people to get over obstacles in life.
Oh, I like that. Very good. Very nice.
Hi, I’m Jeff Clay and all my friends call me Jumping Jeff Clay. You can find a way through it, around it, or do like I do. Just get over it!
I would love to tell you that I was so spiritual that I immediately embraced that. I didn’t. I fought that. It hurt. It took a long time for me to get to that place. Again, the Lord said, (in my spirit)
“I’m not asking you to honor him because he’s worthy. I’m asking you to honor him because I said to.”
I had not clue whether he was even still alive. Within three days the phone rang. She said, “your dad just came through here and he’s got cancer. I think you need to get in touch with him.” I found my dad living with two other men in a double-wide trailer that looked like it had been at the landfill. I walked in and he was drunk. I called him Don. I never called him dad my whole life. I said, “Don, I could have been a better son to you. I could have been more loving, more forgiving, more understanding and I want you to know I ask for your forgiveness. With doing that, I want you to know that I forgive you. I forgive you for not being there at my track meets. I forgive you for not being there for me, mom and Stacey. I forgive you. I understand you probably had some challenges too and I’m not going to judge you for that.” I said, “As a covenant between me and my God from this day forward I’m going to start calling you dad.” I would take him groceries. I would clean him up. I would pick him up out drunk on the ground. Take him to emergency rooms. He had a lot of time in isolation to think about his life. At the end of the day, not only did he forgive other people but more importantly he forgave himself. He lived with a significant amount of condemnation. He wanted to be a better person. He wanted to be a good Christian person. My prayer for years was, “God, truly save him and take him.” Because I just don’t know that he had the constitution to stay on the wagon if you will.
We were never able to have a really deep, deep relationship. We didn’t have time to but I was honored that before he died we were at the hospital. We had just talked to the doctor. He talked about his funeral. He said, “Jeff, I have never had a pastor.” He said, “You have become my pastor and I want you to preach my funeral.” That’s the beauty of Christ. It’s the beauty of reconciliation. To have that personal experience, it’s life-changing.