Born on December 9, 1938, in Eatonville, Florida, David "Deacon" Jones became one of the NFL's all-time defensive greats. Best known for leading the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line, Jones earned eight Pro Bowl selections over his 14-year career. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, Jones died on June 3, 2013, in Anaheim Hills, California.
David D. "Deacon" Jones was born on December 9, 1938, in Eatonville, Florida, where his parents ran a barbecue stand. He received just one scholarship offer after high school to play football at South Carolina State University, where he became active in the burgeoning civil-rights movement. After sitting out a year, Jones played one more season of college football at Mississippi Vocational College. The Los Angeles Rams selected him in the 14th round of the NFL Draft in 1961.
Despite his unheralded college career, the 6'5", 272-pound Deacon Jones quickly became a dominant professional defensive end thanks to his speed and strength. Also known as "The Secretary of Defense," he would knock opposing linemen off-guard with his patented head slap before flattening the quarterback—a move he achieved so often, he coined the term "sack."
Along with Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier and Merlin Olsen, Jones headed the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line in the 1960s. He won unanimous all-league honors five straight years, from 1965 to '69, and played in seven straight Pro Bowls, from 1965 to '71. The Newspaper Enterprise Association named Jones the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both 1967 and '68.
Jones earned one final Pro Bowl selection following a trade to the San Diego Chargers in 1972. He spent two seasons with the Chargers, then one more with the Washington Redskins before announcing his retirement. Although the NFL did not yet keep track of the "sacks" he popularized, Jones is credited with an unofficial total of 173 1/2 over his 14-year career. He also missed just five of a possible 196 regular-season games—a remarkable record of durability in a physically demanding sport.
Off the Field
Deacon Jones enjoyed acting in his spare time, making appearances in such television shows as Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple. He also had a role in the Warren Beatty football film Heaven Can Wait (1978) and starred in a series of Miller Lite advertisements.
Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, and was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary all-time squad in 1994. He released his autobiography, Headslap: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones, in 1996. The following year, he launched the Deacon Jones Foundation, which works to provide opportunities for children from inner cities.
The all-time defensive great died on June 3, 2013, at the age of 74, in Anaheim Hills, California. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and stepson, Greg Pinto.
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