David “Deacon” Jones (pictured), the defensive end who was credited for using the word sack to describe how he knocked down quarterbacks on the field, passed away at his Southern California home on Monday night of natural causes. He was 74 years old, according to USA Today.
Jones was a legendary player that other players idolized and was often referred to as “one of the greatest players in NFL history.” Jones played for the L.A. Rams from 1961 to 1971, San Diego Chargers from 1972 to 1973, and signed on with the Washington Redskins in 1974, marking the end of his stellar career.
Former Rams head coach George Allen once referred to Jones as the “Greatest Defensive End of Modern Football,” while the New York Times pegged the gridiron great as the “Most Valuable Ram of All Time.” Jones was voted to the NFL’s 75 Year All Time Team and was inducted in to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
Jones, who has been deluged with honors throughout his playing career and has never been taken off any sports analyst’s or enthusiast’s list of “Top 100 players of all time,” actually came from humble beginnings.
Jones was born in Eatonville, Fla., and shared the home with nine other family members. He attended Hungerford High School, where he excelled in all areas of athletics, baseball, basketball, and football. Even though Jones managed to earn a scholarship to South Carolina State University, when he finally landed there in 1957, it was revoked after academicians discovered he took part in a civil rights sit-in.
An assistant coach at South Carolina State, who was leaving and had taken a position at Mississippi Vocational, convinced Jones and a handful of other Black players that he could get them scholarships to his new school.
When Jones and the players went to the college, though, they were not allowed to join their White team members at motels and were relegated to sleeping on shoddy cots at the opposing school’s gymnasiums.
The Rams selected Jones in 1961, and he quickly became one of the team’s “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of players along with Rosey Grier (pictured second from right), Lamar Lundy (pictured far left), and Merlin Olsen (pictured second from left).
These four men are now considered to be one of the best defensive lines in all of NFL history.
Now the only surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome is Grier who is 80. Jones reportedly was also the first to make use of the head slap in order to get a jump on the opposing offensive linemen.
Even though the game of football does eventually wind up taking its physical toll on players, Jones managed to miss only six games out of a possible 196 regular season encounters in his 14 NFL seasons. The Rams’ unofficial stats show Jones with 159.5 sacks for them and 173.5 for his career.
Throughout the years, “the Father of sack,” who was known for his sense of humor and humanitarian spirit, took on quite a few memorable acting roles on classic TV commercials and memorable shows like “The Brady Bunch,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Bewitched.” He also appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film “Heaven Can Wait.”
In later years, Jones continued his work as CEO of his own foundation, which was set up in 1997. He also traveled to the Middle East on numerous occasions to visit the troops.
R.I.P., Deacon, you’ll really be sorely missed!
Watch news coverage of David D. Deacon Jones’ death here: