David “Deacon” Jones, the defensive end who crafted a Hall of Fame career by devouring quarterbacks and coining the term “sack” to describe his mayhem, died Monday night at the age of 74.
The Washington Redskins, for whom he last played in the NFL, announced his death, adding that Jones died of natural causes at his Southern California home. Jones’s contribution to the modern pass rush was legendary. His former Los Angeles Rams coach, George Allen, called him “without doubt the greatest defensive end to play in modern-day football.” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray was more succinct: “He eats quarterbacks for a living.” Along with Roosevelt Grier, Lamar Lundy and Merlin Olsen, Jones comprised the Rams’ vaunted Fearsome Foursome.
“The thing we’ve got to remember being players in this era is to really respect the game `back when,’ because those guys could really play,” said the Rams’ Chris Long, whose father, Howie, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Deacon Jones is a perfect example. This whole league and everybody in this game should honor the past and the players who played in that era. Those guys paved the way for us.”
Jones, a 14th-round draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State (then Mississippi Vocational College) in 1961, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. When he was a member of the Fearsome Foursome from 1961-71, crushing the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage was not an officially quantified statistic for the league and Jones is credited with coining the term. Less clear is just how many of those sacks he accumulated as one of the game’s top pass rushers since sacks were not included as an official stat until 1982.
Jones was traded to San Diego Chargers in 1972 and, after two seasons with the team, he finished his career with Allen in Washington in 1974. Jones’s death leaves Roosevelt Grier, 80, as the last surviving member Foursome Fearsome. Merlin Olsen, the other member of the group in the Hall of Fame, died in 2010. Lamar Lundy died in 2007. Jones, his stepson told the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer, had been in failing health and died in Anaheim Hills with his family at his side.
“Besides his family, his greatest friends were the guys from the Fearsome Foursome,” Greg Pinto told Farmer. “I talked to Rosey tonight, and I can’t tell you how devastated he was. They loved each other. They respected each other. They could tell if somebody was breathing different. They played as a unit, and they took great pride in what they did. They dared you to try and score on them.”
Pinto said his stepfather was sick for some time, so his death wasn’t unexpected. Jones was at home in Anaheim Hills with his family at his bedside when he died Monday evening.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant,” Bruce Allen, George Allen’s son and the Redskins’ general manager said. “His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.”
Jones worked by applying his signature move, a slap to the head of offensive linemen who dared try to block his path to the quarterback. The move was banned by the NFL and it was said that Jones was so strong he could split a helmet.
“It was the greatest thing I ever did and when I left the game they outlawed it,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
After retiring from football, Jones did a little acting and singing and established a foundation to help at-risk youth. Among his memorable acting gigs was an appearance in a Miller Lite commercial.
Jones adopted the nickname “Deacon” to gain separation from all the other David Joneses.
“Football is a violent world and Deacon has a religious connotation,” he told The Times in 1980. “I thought a name like that would be remembered.”
No chance he’ll be forgotten.
RIP Deacon Jones. legendary player & storyteller. kicked a PAT in his last regular season game. Holder? Joe Theismann
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) June 4, 2013
R.I.P. Deacon Jones. One of the best to ever play the game. #SackMaster
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 4, 2013
RIP Deacon Jones aka Secretary of Defense.One of the baddest dudes to ever play the game
— Richie incognito (@68INCOGNITO) June 4, 2013
Got a lot of respect for Deacon Jones, the sackmaster. My prayers go out to him & family.
— Darrelle Revis (@Revis24) June 4, 2013
One of the most respected players that I always admired and respected. RIP Deacon Jones.
— Andre Carter (@mr_carter93) June 4, 2013
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