Unfortunately for the modern NFL fan, Jones didn’t play in today’s era of hyper-exposure and athlete celebrity, because if he did, we would all have witnessed a player and a man who was truly special. He is one of the best to ever suit up, but the average fan doesn’t know much about him at all.
The NFL said goodbye to one of its all-time greats, when former LA Rams defensive end David “Deacon” Jones died of natural causes in his southern California home on Monday, June 3rd. Jones, who was 74, will long be remembered for his many accomplishments on the field, as well as his reputation as one of the game’s greatest ambassadors off the field.
Maybe the original and one of the greatest ever “sleeper picks,” Deacon Jones wasn’t selected until the 14th round in 1961, and he went on to become a Hall of Famer and a member of the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. After spending a year at South Carolina State, followed by a year at Mississippi Vocational (not exactly an athletic powerhouse program), Jones was snatched up by the Rams after they saw film of the 270 lb. tackle outrunning the defensive backs they were actually scouting. They took a shot on the unknown talent late in the draft, and were rewarded with 11 unbelievable seasons from the Deacon.
Deacon Jones not only left his mark on the guys he flattened on the field, he also affected the lives of many others he encountered outside of football. Most notably, he founded the Deacon Jones foundation back in 1997, a charitable organization that provides college expenses for inner-city students in exchange for their volunteering in their own communities. Deacon was also a frequent visitor overseas to US troops that were stationed throughout the Middle East.
Deacon wasn’t just lighting it up on the gridiron, off the field he was a big personality, too. Over the course of his career and even after his retirement, Jones enjoyed spending time in front of the camera, taking guest starring roles on popular television shows like “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” and “The Odd Couple.” He also appeared in the movie “Heaven Can Wait” alongside Warren Beatty, and joined Rodney Dangerfield for his 1983 TV special “I Can’t Take It No More.”
Deacon Jones is widely credited as being one of the best defensive players ever to play the game, the trouble is, it’s impossible to say JUST how good he was. Because even though he invented the word “sack” and is known as one of the greatest defensive forces of all time, sacks and tackles weren’t officially recorded NFL stats at the time he played. Though, his 1967 season offers some unofficial evidence to his dominance. That year, his team’s QB was sacked 25 times in all, while Deacon reportedly dropped opposing QB’s 26 times by himself (a number which would be a single-season record).
Deacon Jones is actually the man credited with coining the term “sack” to describe the way he would lay opposing quarterbacks flat on their asses. Before him, getting to the quarterback was just called, well… getting to the quarterback. Doesn’t quite have the same catchy ring to it, does it? His invention of this now-official football term also gives him a free pass for the fact that he’s actually the one who gave himself the nickname “Deacon,” saying, “Nobody would ever remember a player named David Jones.”