David “Deacon” Jones, considered by many the greatest defensive end in NFL history, died Monday at age 74 from natural causes.
Jones specialized in quarterback sacks, a term attributed to him. Nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense.” The Los Angeles Times called Jones “Most Valuable Ram of All Time,” and former Rams head coach George Allen called him the “Greatest Defensive End of Modern Football”.
Jones, a native of Eatonville, Florida, was chosen in the fourteenth round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He then earned a starting role as a defensive end and teamed with tackle Merlin Olsen to give Los Angeles a perennial All-Pro left side of the defensive line.
Deacon became a part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the Rams (along with Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Olsen), which is now considered one of the best lines of all time.
Jones won consensus All-Pro honors five straight years from 1965 through 1969 and was Second-team All-Pro in 1964, 1970, and 1972. He was also in seven straight Pro Bowls, from 1964 to 1970, and was selected to an eighth after the 1972 season with the San Diego Chargers.
He was voted the team’s Outstanding Defensive Lineman by the Los Angeles Rams Alumni in 1962, 64, 65, and 66. In 1972, Jones was included in a multi-player trade with the San Diego Chargers where he led all Chargers’ defensive linemen in tackles and won a berth on the AFC Pro Bowl squad. He concluded his career with the Washington Redskins in 1974.
Jones was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Week four times: Week 14, 1967; Week 12, 1968; Week 11, 1969; and Week 10, 1970.
An extremely durable player, Jones missed only six games of a possible 196 regular-season encounters in his 14 NFL seasons.
Pro Football Weekly reported he accumulated 194½ sacks over his career, which would be third on the all-time sack list. (Jones would have ranked first all-time at the time of his retirement, and since has been surpassed by two fellow Hall of Famer’s Bruce Smith and Reggie White.)
In 1967, Jones had 26 sacks in only 14 games, which (if official) would be the single season record.
Jones also worked as a television actor, and appeared in numerous TV programs since the 1970s, most often appearing in cameo roles. He appeared in an episode of The Odd Couple where he and Oscar were in a television commercial selling shaving products. He appeared on The Brady Bunch and in a Bewitched episode in 1969 he played a guard to the Giant’s castle in Jack & the Beanstalk. Jones also played himself on an episode of Wonder Woman in 1978.
In 1999, he was ranked No. 13 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranked player to have played for the Rams franchise, the highest-ranked defensive end, and the second-ranked defensive lineman behind Bob Lilly. The same year, he was named by Sports Illustrated as the “Defensive End of the Century.”
In 2009 his number 75 was retired by the St. Louis Rams. Jones was married to his wife Elizabeth, who is the chief operating and financial officer of the Deacon Jones Foundation, until his death. Jones lived in Anaheim Hills, California.
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