Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The day I met Deacon Jones

Deacon Jones, the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end, died Monday night. Jones was such an iconic pass rusher he is actually credited with coining the word "sack." But unfortunately for his career, the NFL didn't start keeping official tracks of sacks until 1982.

Jones haunted quarterbacks' nightmares throughout the 1960s and '70s, mostly as one of the headliners of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" (which also included Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy).

I met Jones only once, but it was a memorable conversation. This was in 2004, when the Charlotte Touchdown Club -- an organization that has done a ton in Charlotte to promote football and give out scholarships -- had Jones in as a lunch speaker as part of their annual speakers' series.

I talked to Jones before his speech. He was a legendarily tough player, and he told me flat-out that he had watched the 2004 Panthers (coming off a Super Bowl year, but in the middle of a disappointing 7-9 season) and that they weren't tough enough. In fact, Jones said, NFL players in general weren't tough enough anymore.

As he said when I interviewed him: "These girls who play the NFL game today ought to be ashamed of taking all that money!"

Jones said today's NFL players, although larger, are much softer.

"You see them taking oxygen all the time on the sideline, " Jones said. "They get tired after a series and have to come out. It makes me sick. "Football is a game of pain! Of suffering! What do these players know about that?"

A former 14th-round pick out of Mississippi Valley State, Jones also said he couldn't stand the NFL rules that protected offensive players and, in his view, made the game less violent and less entertaining.

"Fans today are getting less football, " Jones said, "and paying a lot more money for it."

In other words, along with being an incredible player, Jones was a heck of an interview. I remember him fondly, as does anyone who ever saw him play. He was 74.


Clay said...

It's not too late for you the have another child and name them Deacon.

tom t said...

I met Deacon at a Corporate Golf Outing in Tampa around 1989. Frankly, he appeared to be in poor health even then and I'm amazed he lived this long. His eyes lit up when I mentioned the Fearsome Foursome as I introduced myself. I seemed to be 1 of the few guys around that day who really knew about his career and it was like playing golf with an old friend. He exhibited no ego, and loved answering all my questions about the "Old NFL"...Clearly an iconic figure for the League.

Anonymous said...

I was his driver that day. We had lunch everyday that week and he was really down to earth and I got to hear some amazing stories. R.I.P.

officer jim said...

Deacon was the best! What a true football player he was. I don't remember ever seeing him take a play off like some of the players do today. He played because he loved the game,not for the glory or money. I believe that he would plant these player of today in the ground. After GOD made Deacon Jones he threw the mold away. I for one long for the football days of Deacon Jones and Dick Butkus when it really was football not this crap that their putting on the field today. Deacon will always be in my memory and they will be great memories of a great man.

Anonymous said...

I wish the SWAC could produce more players like Jones (MVSU), Strahan (TX Southern), Rice (MVSU), Aeneas Williams (Southern), Brazile (Jxn State), Jackie Slater (Jxn State), Walter Payton (Jxn State), Steve McNair (Alcorn), Willie Richardson (Jxn State), Doug Williams (Grambling), Donald Driver (Alcorn), etc

Anonymous said...

I've met Willie Mays, Rocky Calavito, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, Roger Staubach, Willie Nelson, Greg Allmann, George HW Bush when he was VP, worked for Gloria Vanderbilt and Tommy Hilfiger, met Kareem Abdul Jabbar when I worked for LA Gear, and had sex with a well known beautiful actress who shall remain nameless. So There! I wish I had met Deacon Jones, he was very good in the NFL, and by all accounts a great guy.