LOS ANGELES, June 4, 2013 — National Football League flags will have to run at half staff. The great Deacon Jones has left us at age 74 to join other gridiron greats in that end zone in the sky. He died of natural causes.
David “Deacon” Jones was one of the greatest defensive players of all time in a career spanning fourteen seasons, eleven of them with the Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams.
Jones coined the term “quarterback sack.” While sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982, Jones insisted that he had more of them than any NFL player. As he got older, his version of how many sacks he had increased. The official record is 200, although if one believed Jones, he had more than twice that many. “Pro Football Weekly” credited Jones with 194 1/2 sacks, third all time behind Smith and Reggie White with 198.
Jones defined a sack as the equivalent of “devastating a city” and leaving it sacked.
“You take all the offensive linemen and put them in a burlap bag, and then you take a baseball bat and beat on the bag. You’re sacking them, you’re bagging them. That’s what you’re doing with a quarterback.”
He said that he was not born to be a lawyer, doctor or president. Like “Ray Charles was born to play the blues, Deacon Jones was born to rush the quarterback.”
“Pro Football Weekly” also credits Jones with 26 sacks in 1967 and 24 more in 1968. The official record belongs to Michael Strahan, who in 2001 recorded 22 1/5 sacks, breaking by 1/2 a sack the 1984 record held by Mark Gastineau of the “New York Sack Exchange.” Yet Strahan and Gastineau benefitted from sixteen regular season games.
Jones accomplished his sack totals in a fourteen game regular season. Fifty sacks in twenty eight games would definitely be a record, and Jones was never shy of reminding everybody who the real sack master was.
Yet questioning Deacon Jones would not be a wise move. He played long before safety rules were tightened and took full advantage of that. His signature move was the “head slap.” Those who need that translated might need one literally. At the start of the play, he would literally try to knock the opposing lineman’s block off.
Then the next step was to completely devour the quarterback and belt him to the ground, a sack. “To give myself an initial headstart on the pass rush, in other words a extra step. Because anytime you go upside a man’s head… or a woman, they may have a tendency to blink they eyes or close their eyes. And that’s all I needed.”
Jones was a testament to perseverance. He was not drafted until the fourteenth round. The modern NFL Draft only has seven rounds. Yet when teamed with Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsenand Lamar Lundy, the result was the “Fearsome Foursome,” one of the greatest defensive lines in NFL history. Jones went to seven Pro Bowls with the Rams and one more in his first of two seasons with the San Diego Chargers. He spent his final season with the Washington Redskins. In fourteen years and 196 regular season games, he missed only six of those games with injuries.
Jones was a first ballot entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. In 1994 he was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. The Sporting News in 1999 ranked him the thirteenth greatest player in NFL history. A 2010 NFL Films panel listed him fifteenth. NFL 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp patterned his career after Jones, calling him “an institution” and “the best.”
Jones was also one of the great “characters” of football. He understood football was entertainment, and he was notable and quotable on and off the field. Despite playing before the big television era contracts, the cameras were drawn to him. He did cameos on shows as diverse as Wonder Woman and Alf to the Brady Bunch and Bewitched. He was a musical talent, featured with band War on the song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” He was popular in television commercials including Miller Beer.
Jones loved his country and traveled to Iraq to meet with troops and General Tommy Franks.
He leaves behind his wife Elizabeth, who runs the Deacon Jones Foundation that helps youths.
Now Deacon Jones is resting in heaven. If anybody gets out of line with God, they had better be prepared to get headslapped and sacked.
Farewell, Deacon. You were one of the very best, and will be missed.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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