David “Deacon” Jones the original “sackmaster” has died age 74. Jones’ is reported to have passed away in his home in Southern California on Monday night, his former team the Washington Redskins confirmed his death.
Known throughout his career as the “sackmaster,” famed for chewing up and spitting out quarterbacks throughout the NFL. He will be sorely missed.
Here’s what you need to know about his legend…
1. Jones Beat Cancer in His Teens
When Jones was in high school, he noticed a lump developing on his thigh, Jones’ sought treatment and learned he had a tumor. Jones was treated in a hospital in Orlando, Florida.
In the pre-Civil Rights south, the hospital was segregated and black patients were treated in the building’s basement, or “the black wing,” as Jones himself called it. Ultimately he had the tumor removed and his life was never seriously at risk, in total, Jones spent ten days in the building’s basement. He said the staff at the hospital were openly hostile to him and his parents, he said in an interview with Pro Football Weekly in 2000:
The way they talked to you, you didn’t want them to put you under. If they had a hundred beds open in the white wing, you could be dying and you weren’t going to be put in the white wing.
2. In His Youth He Met Jackie Robinson
In his early teenage years, Jones along with some friends, got to see the soon-to-be-legend Jackie Robinson play. Jones told an interview he couldn’t remember if he was 12 or 14 but he recollects about the game:
During the game, Robinson slid into second base, and the white second baseman for the opposing team intentionally ground his cleats into Robinson’s hand, smiled at what he had done and then got away with it when the white umpire chose to do nothing about it.
As Jones sat in the black section of the crowd with his friends, he made an attempt to talk to Robinson as the baseball legend made his way to the locker room by following alongside Robinson from behind the fences. Jones says:
He didn’t have any animosity in his heart, or he didn’t show any. I know he had to be pissed off. I know I would have been.
Deacon went on to say in his Pro Football Weekly interview:
I said, “I guess you get used to it.”
Robinson responded, “No, son, you don’t ever get used to it.”
3. Jones Coined the Term “Sack”
Not only that but he invented his own nickname, “Deacon,” citing his reason as “nobody would ever remember a played named David Jones.” Jones was also given the nicknames “Sackmaster,” and “Secretary of Defense” during his career.
During his career he then invented to phrase “sack” when talking about tackling quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage. A move which is regarded as Jones’ specialty during his time with the Rams (1961-71), San Diego Chargers (1972-73), and Washington Redskins (1974). During the 1967 season alone Jones made 26 sacks.
4. It’s Rumored He Lost His First College Scholarship Because of His Civil Rights Activity
In 1957, Jones began in South Carolina state on a full-ride sports scholarship, the popular legend is that he was kicked out of school due to his deep involvement in the civil rights movement. But a friend, Willie Jeffries, who played with Jones in the NFL thinks that Jones just failed too many tests. The Deacon’s antics were infamous around college where he:
…liked to wander the halls of his dormitory naked, embarrassing visitors and the occasional housemother.
He and several teammates once overturned a professor’s Volkswagen (then returned it to the upright position).
Jones returned to college at Mississippi Vocational College, now Mississippi Valley College, he still encountered racism as he and his fellow black team mates were forced to sleep in cots during road games at the college’s they were playing against, rather than the motels afforded white players.
Jones record at college level was:
…five All-Pro selections, seven Pro Bowls and (he claimed) a career total of 173.5 sacks, which would be third all-time, including 26 in 1967. Alas, official sacks were not recorded until 1982.
5. Jones Was Drafted in the 14th Round
Unlike many of the great players that Jones is often cited with as the greatest, Jones went as a relatively anonymous pick to the Los Angeles Rams in 1961. In a move that the LA Times called: “…one of the greatest steals in NFL draft history.”
6. During His Career He Created the “Fearsome Foursome”
While at the LA Rams, Jones created the “Fearsome Foursome,” a group of intense defensive players who created mayhem in every game they played. Of the other three in the group, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Rosey Grier, only Grier is still alive. Jones’ step-son, Greg Pinto, told the LA Times on Monday night:
Besides his family, his greatest friends were the guys from the Fearsome Foursome. I talked to Rosey tonight, and I can’t tell you how devastated he was. They loved each other. They respected each other. They could tell if somebody was breathing different. They played as a unit, and they took great pride in what they did. They dared you to try and score on them.
7. He Never Won a Ring
Despite all of his success and plaudits that game his way, Jones never got his hands on the Super Bowl, in fact, he never even played in the big game.
A Yahoo sports blog from 2009 says:
In short, he might be the best player to never make a Super Bowl, the captain of this team.
A 2012 Bleacher Report blog on the greatest players never to make to the Super Bowl, ranked him number 2 saying:
He had tremendous speed and versatility. The speed he was able to show while running sideline to sideline was not seen before Jones came along.
8. Jones Left the Rams in 1972
After a multi-player trade saw him leave the Rams for San Diego and the Chargers, he slotted in right away, becoming the team’s defensive captain, he then went on to play for the Washington Redskins in 1974, finishing his career there.
Pro Football Hall of Fame says:
The extremely durable and dedicated Jones missed just five games of a possible 196 regular-season encounters in 14 NFL campaigns.
9. Jones Went Into Acting After His Retirement
His IMDB page lists his acting credits as:
Jones, according to his website, served as spokesman for:
…the Miller Brewing Company, Hagar Slacks, Pacific Coast Medical Enterprises, and Epson America, and represented the NFL and Champion Products as spokesman for their Throwback campaigns.
10. He Was a Regular Fixture on USO Tours
Jones talked about his visits to Iraq on his website:
Deacon’s recent trip to Iraq to visit the troops has added another dimension to what he does and where his interests lie. He has agreed to join forces with General Tommy Franks in an effort to pay homage and lend support to the families of the military men and women who have been either killed or wounded in action.
His NFL tribute page also mentions his “numerous trips to Iraq.”