Death of a Deacon

Jones and the Fearsome Foursome bring the pain (courtesy of Neil Leifer/SI)

Just one day after learning that Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly had been diagnosed with cancer of the upper jaw, the National Football League received even more bad news.

Deacon Jones—the Hall of Fame defensive end credited with coining the phrase “quarterback sack”—died Monday evening in his Southern California home from natural causes. He was 74 years old.

Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” Jones was arguably one of the best defensive players in NFL history. He entered the league in 1961 and was immediately drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. Together with Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy, Jones helped form one of the scariest defensive lines the game has ever seen: the infamous Fearsome Foursome.

Jones would later play for the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, not that it mattered much in terms of his game play. In his 14 NFL seasons, Jones won All-Pro honors for five consecutive years (1965-1969); went to seven straight Pro Bowls (1964-1970) and another in 1972; was named AP’s Defensive Player of the Week four times; missed only 6 of 196 regular season games; revolutionized the defensive end position; patented the head slap move as a pass rusher; and accumulated 194.5 sacks over his career, placing him at third on the all-time sack list.

In other words, he was a beast. And a lot of good offensive players took a beating at his capable hands.

Deacon Jones in the Hall of Fame (courtesy of ESPN)

“His eyes were as red as fire, and after he took his stance, he was pawing his leg in the dirt like a bull,” said former Dallas Cowboy Rayfield Wright, who first faced off against Jones in 1969. “As an offensive lineman, you’re taught only to hear the quarterback’s voice. Nothing else. I’m listening in case there’s an audible, and in the pause between ‘Huts!’ I hear a deep, heavy voice say, ‘Does yo’ mama know you’re out here?’ It was Deacon Jones.”

Jones was undoubtedly as fearsome as they come, and his impact could be felt among NFL owners and managers, as well.

“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said of the defensive legend. “Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him.”

Actually, Bruce, Deacon Jones is an inspiration even to those who didn’t know him. And he will be for years to come.

Rest in peace, Deacon.

Posted on June 4, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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