BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Southwestern Athletic Conference, Mississippi Valley State University and NFL legend, David “Deacon” Jones, the original sackmaster, has died.
The Hall of Fame defensive end credited with terming the word sack for how he knocked down quarterbacks, was 74. The Washington Redskins said that Jones died of natural causes at his home in Southern California on Monday night.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Deacon Jones and the Mississippi Valley State community,” said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp. “We will truly miss this NFL pioneer and SWAC legend. I’m sure Mr. Jones will be measured by his actions on the field. We hope that he will be remembered by the impact he made off the gridiron and how he lived his life.”
A 14th-round draft pick in 1961 out of MVSU, which later produced Jerry Rice, Jones was the first defensive lineman with 100 solo tackles, reaching that mark in 1967.
Jones, a native of Eatonville, Fla., played three college seasons at South Carolina State and one at Mississippi Vocational College (now Mississippi Valley State).
He was enshrined into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 1994. That class included Willis Reed (N.Y. Knicks – Basketball Hall of Fame) and Lou Brock (St. Louis Cardinals – Baseball Hall of Fame).
Because sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, Jones’ total is uncertain. His impact as a premier pass rusher and team leader is not.
Jones was the leader of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and then played for San Diego 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 made the Pro Bowl every year from 1964-70 and played in eight overall. He combined with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy on a defensive line that at times was unblockable.
The Rams’ stats show Jones with 159½ sacks for them and 173½ for his career — all unofficial, of course. 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. He was a guest star on a handful of television shows — including episodes of “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch” and “The Odd Couple” — and appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film “Heaven Can Wait.”
Most recently, Jones was the CEO of his own foundation, which he began in 1997. He also made several trips to visit troops on active duty in the Middle East.