Former St. Louis Rams DE David "Deacon" Jones passed away last night. He died of natural causes at his home in Southern California. He was 74.
Known for his ability to knock down an opposing quarterback, Jones will be remembered as one of the greatest football players to hit the field. Since sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982, no one knows for sure how many sacks Jones recorded during his time in the NFL, but that does not discount the passion he showed on the field, nor his ability to make a play. Washington Redskins General Manager, Bruce Allen, whose father coached Jones with the Los Angeles Rams, had this to say about the former defensive end:
"Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant," he said. "His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother." (ESPN.com)
Jones was the leader of the Rams' Fearsome from 1961-1971. After that, he played two years with the San Diego Chargers before retiring as a Washington Redskin in 1974.
"Deacon Jones has been the most inspirational person in my football career," said former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.
"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, also is 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."
The Rams' unofficial stats show that Jones had 159.5 sacks with the team and 173.5 on his career. Since sacks weren't a stat that was kept back then, it's hard to say how many he really had. The 14th-round draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State University was the first defensive lineman to reach 100 solo tackles, which he did in 1967.
Deacon Jones, who had a few small acting roles during and after his NFL career, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, and made the leagues 75th anniversary all-time team. In 1997, he founded the Deacon Jones Foundation. Their mission is to assist young people and the communities in which they live with a comprehensive program that includes education, mentoring, corporate internship and community service.
Rams 101 extends its sincerest condolences to the Jones family. He will be forever missed and forever remembered, not just for his play on the field, but his actions off of it.