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Sports Then and Now

Remembering Deacon Jones, the Secretary of Defense

Posted on June 04, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Deacon Jones was twice the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 20 or more sacks in four seasons.

Deacon Jones was twice the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 20 or more sacks in four seasons.

The NFL lost an all-time great with the death this week of Hall of Fame defensive end David “Deacon” Jones at the age of 74.

While he will be remembered as a revolutionary defender who invented the term “sack” and the now-outlawed “head slap”, Jones was more than just another great player.

At a time when African American players were just gaining wide-spread acceptance, Jones beat the odds to become one of the best players of his generation.

Born in Eatonville, Florida (near Orlando), Jones attended Hungerford High School and then South Carolina State. After just one season, Jones lost his scholarship after being involved with the Civil Rights Movement. He then played one season at Mississippi Vocational College (now Mississippi Valley State) before being drafted in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.

Though unheralded, Jones soon established himself as a rising star and became part of one of the greatest defensive lines in NFL history. During the 1960s, the “Fearsome Foursome” developed into a key component of the turnaround of the Rams from a perennial loser to a consistent playoff contender.

When Jones joined the Rams in 1961, Lamar Lundy was already on the squad as a defensive tackle. The year after Jones, Merlin Olsen was drafted by the Rams and became one of the best defensive tackles in NFL history.  The line was complete when Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier was traded to the Rams from the Giants in 1963.

Over the next three seasons, the defensive front became one of the best in football, but the Rams were still unable to develop into a winning team.

Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Deacon Jones were better known as the Fearsome Foursome.

Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Deacon Jones were better known as the Fearsome Foursome.

In 1966 George Allen became the head coach and the Rams went 40-13-3 over the next four seasons. However, though they twice reached the playoffs, they were unable to get over the hump and win a championship.

Though sacks were not a recognized NFL statistic until 1982, Jones unofficially recorded 194 career sacks, which still ranks as the third highest total of all-time behind only Reggie White and Bruce Smith. He unofficially registered 20 or more sacks in a season four times during his career.

Jones was honored as the NFL defensive player of the year in 1967 and 1968 and was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first team All-Pro.

After being traded to the San Diego Chargers prior to the 1972 season, Jones spent two seasons in San Diego and then completed his career with one season reunited with Allen, who was then head coach of the Washington Redskins.

In 1980 Jones became the first member of the Fearsome Foursome to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Olsen followed two years later and Allen joined his two former players in the HOF in 2002.

After retirement, Jones made several appearances on television and in movies. He also was one of several former professional athletes to be regularly featured in Miller Lite Beer Commercials.

Jones will be missed, but his legend and legacy will never be forgotten.

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