David “Deacon” Jones, a man who was feared by every quarterback in the league during his 14 seasons, and respected by all who played against him, died Monday after a four-year fight with lung cancer. Jones played for the Redskins and Chargers towards the end of his career, but it will be his time with the Los Angeles Rams that will always be remembered. Jones transformed the way that the game was played, and ushered in a new era of defense, because not only was he the first player to coin the term “sack,” but he was the first truly athletic defensive lineman, with the ability to make plays from sideline to sideline.
Jones was drafted in the 1961 draft by the Los Angeles Rams in the fourteenth round, but earned the starting left defensive end spot, and would never give it up. The Rams defense would forever be defined by the Fearsome Foursome; the defensive line which consisted of Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, and Rosey Grier. Jones’s size (6’5, 272) and speed allowed him to revolutionize the way the defensive end position was played. Jones was able to overpower offensive linemen, but was also fast enough to get around them on his way to the quarterback. However, when speed wasn’t enough, Jones invented one of the first true “sack moves,” one that has since been made illegal, the head slap. Jones often would have his hands heavily padded and taped to help him, and on the snap of the ball, Jones would bring one hand up and hit the offensive player on the side of the helmet. Jones said that he used that hand slap “To give myself an initial head start on the pass rush. Because anytime you go upside a man's head; they may have a tendency to close their eyes and that's all I needed.”
Jones’s place in NFL history is undeniable because of the extreme impact that he has had on the modern day defensive end. By naming the sack, Jones will always be remembered, and because he was so dominant at his craft, he is its perfect champion. Unfortunately, sacks were not an official recorded statistic until 1982, so Jones’s numbersaren’t eligible for NFL records. However, if they had been, Jones’s sack total has been reported between 173 and 194.5, and would also have the single-season sack record of 26, which he recorded in 1967. Jones was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968, one of onlythree players in NFL history to be named player of the year in consecutive years. Jones was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro Teams eight times in his career, and was a member of both the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Jones was alsonamed the #15 player in NFL history in a poll down by NFL.com, which celebrates Jones’s elite playing ability, as well as his contributions to the game.
Deacon Jones was a man who gave everything he had when he played, and used his career to give back to his community. Jones started the Deacon Jones Foundation in 1997, which was designed to assist communities, specifically young people, with programs including community service, education, and mentoring. Jones will be missed for his contributions on and off the football field, and will always be remembered as one of the most influential and well-respected players ever in football. Football fans in all cities mourn the loss of Deacon Jones, and the truly great man he was.