Deacon Jones, the Hall of Fame defensive end credited with creating the term “quarterback sacks,” died of natural causes at his home in Southern California, the Washington Redskins said. He was 74.
Jones played the last of his 14 National Football League seasons with the Redskins in 1974. He played for coach George Allen with both the Redskins and Los Angeles Rams, and had Allen as his presenter when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1980.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, George Allen’s son, said in a statement. “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.”
Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” Jones was selected the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968.
The NFL didn’t begin recording sacks as an official statistic until 1982, though Jones is credited with creating the term and has claimed to hold the NFL’s all-time record.
“We needed a shorter term,” Jones once was quoted as saying, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I gave it some thought and came up with the term ‘sack.’ Like, you know, you sack a city -- you devastate it. And the word is so short you can even get Deacon in front of Jones in some headlines.”
The Hall of Fame said today that if sacks were an official stat when Jones played, he’d rank third in history behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith with 173 1/2.
“He was an icon among the icons,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Even with his fellow Hall of Famers, Deacon Jones held a special status. He was a hard-charging football player and the original sack artist who coined the term. He is warmly regarded by his peers not only as one of the greatest players in NFL history but also for his tremendous influence and sense of humor. Deacon Jones will be missed but always remembered.”
Jones entered the NFL in 1961 as a 14th-round draft choice of the Rams after playing one season as South Carolina State in 1958 and a year at Mississippi Vocational in 1960. As a rookie, he put aside his given name, David, in favor of the nickname Deacon, reasoning that “no one would remember a player named David Jones,” according to the Hall of Fame.
In Los Angeles, he teamed with Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy to form a defensive line that became known as the “Fearsome Foursome.” The Rams in 1968 set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed in a 14-game season.
“His tenacity on the field, attitude, and his determination to sack the quarterback propelled his Hall of Fame career and made him one of the most recognizable figures in sports,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
Jones won consensus All-Pro honors from 1965 through 1969 and was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times. The Hall of Fame’s website describes him as among the NFL’s first “fast, tough, mobile defensive linemen.”
Jones played with the San Diego Chargers in 1972 and 1973 before finishing his career with the Redskins. He missed only five of 196 regular-season games.
Jones was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994. Five years later, he was selected by Sports Illustrated as the “Defensive End of the Century.”
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