Story of the Week
He was a vision on a grainy black and white film. For all the two Los Angeles Rams’ scouts knew, he may have been a mirage. David Jones came out of Mississippi Vocational, but to Jimmy Sanders and Eddie Kotal, he was heaven-sent.
"We were looking at a defensive back," Sanders recalled a generation later, "and suddenly we saw this huge guy catch a tackle-eligible pass and outrun the defensive back. Well, we immediately rejected the defensive back in question, and started a file on the offensive lineman."
Still, the Rams didn’t select Jones until the 14th. round of the 1961 NFL draft. The rookie had tremendous tools, but limited schooling as an offensive lineman, so the coaches switched him to the other side of the ball. Thus was born "Deacon" Jones, a father of invention.
Jones refined the head slap, a pass-rushing technique that caused severe headaches for blockers. He coined the term "sack", and collected them in unheard-of numbers. Unfortunately, the league did not endorse the statistic for another two decades, so we’ll never really know the exact number that Deacon can claim. He even created his own image, dubbing himself Deacon "because nobody would ever remember a player named David Jones."
Given his level of performance, that wasn’t likely. He possessed great quickness and speed for a man 6-4 and 270. Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones’ line-mate with the Rams, gives Jones credit for being the quickest big man the NFL has ever seen. Jones once found himself chasing down the fleet Redskins' receiver, Bobby Mitchell, and to everyone’s surprise but his own, Jones caught him and knocked him out of bounds.
But he was tough, too, starting with the head slap that finally was outlawed by the league. Per Ron Mix, Hall of Fame offensive tackle, "You can’t imagine how it feels to have your bell rung play after play by Deacon Jones."
Jones anchored the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome", one of the NFL’s legendary defensive lines. In 1967, Jones himself had an estimated 26 sacks in 14 regular season games. It was altogether fitting that he specialized in the procedure he dubbed and popularized. He was hailed throughout the NFL as the "Secretary of Defense." He was a Pro Bowl choice eight times. Deacon Jones is in the NFL Hall of Fame, exactly where he belongs.
Deacon Jones was the best pass-rushing defensive end I’ve ever seen, but honorable mention goes to the Cowboys' Harvey Martin.
Last Week’s Trivia
What QB engineered the largest comeback ever in NCAA football? What QB accomplished the same feat in the NFL? The answer to both questions is Frank Reich. He rallied the University of Maryland to a 42-40 victory over the University of Miami after being down 31 points. Then in the 1992 AFC playoffs, his Buffalo Bills were down 35-3 to the Houston Oilers, and he brought them back to win, 41-38, in overtime. Not shabby for a back-up QB.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the last switch-hitter to win MVP honors in the American League? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.