The Washington Redskins have announced that Pro Football Hall of Famer David “Deacon” Jones has passed away, he was 74. According to Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, Jones died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes.
Jones played five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and one in Washington for Allen’s father, Hall of Fame coach George Allen.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Bruce Allen said in a statement issued by the Redskins. “Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.”
Along with fellow defensive linemen Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy, Jones was the leader of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71. Jones earned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in both 1967 and 1968.
“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 Chris Long of the Rams, whose father, Howie, is also in the 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 was traded to the San Diego Chargers in 1972 and played for two seasons before finishing his career with the Redskins in 1974. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and made the league’s 75th anniversary all-time squad.
Jones specialized in quarterback sacks, a term he coined. The Rams’ stats show Jones with 159 1/2 sacks for them and 173 1/2 for his career, but because “sacks” didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, Jones’ actual total is uncertain.
Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense”, his impact as a premier pass rusher and team leader is legendary. Jones is considered one of the greatest defensive players ever. Jones also was one of the most durable players, missing just five games in his 14 pro seasons.
Jones also had several small acting roles both during and after his playing career most often appearing in cameo roles including episodes of , “The Odd Couple”, “Bewitched,” ”The Brady Bunch”, “Wonder Woman” and “ALF”. He also appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film, “Heaven Can Wait.”
Jones made several trips to visit troops on active duty in the Middle East and was very active in his community. He especially enjoyed working with youth organizations. His commitment to helping shape young minds led him to start the Deacon Jones Foundation in 1997. He served as the foundation’s president and CEO.
Of his foundation Jones has said “Coming from a poor, inner-city neighborhood myself, I have an intimate knowledge of all of the problems people face there. It’s not just the inability to afford a good education that is a problem. Inner-city kids have to be prepared for college in every sense. For instance, kids from Beverly Hills grow up hearing about the stock market and real estate deals over the dinner table. When kids from the ghetto enter college and the workplace, they don’t know a thing about what they hear. And they are never told exactly what their commitment to their own neighborhoods must be.”
Michael Strahan who played with the Giants from 1993-2007 said of his dear friend and mentor, “I literally loved Deacon. You often hear the term, there’s only one of somebody. But there’s truly only one Deacon Jones. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. I was a young player; he didn’t have to take me under his wing. He could have just dismissed me, but he took me under his wing. He was just good to me. It was just so good to have a legend believe in me as a young player, which made me better throughout my career.”
“Deacon Jones was one of the rare players who changed the way the game was played,” Rams C.O.O./Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff said. “In this day and age, the term ‘great’ is often overused, but it only begins to describe Deacon Jones as a player and person. His combination of God-given talent and relentless effort made him one of the greatest players to ever put on an NFL uniform. His spirit, laughter and gentle nature off the field made him a friend to all. Deacon was a legend in every sense of the word, and he’ll truly be missed by the Rams, our fans and the NFL community. Our prayers are with Deacon’s wife Elizabeth on this sad day.”
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