Tuesday, June 04, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Programming to Discuss Deacon Jones

Deacon Jones passed away yesterday. He was 74.

Deacon Jones, in case you've never heard his name, was a football player. For most of his career, he was a defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams.

He played college football, for one year, at South Carolina State in 1957. His scholarship was revoked when it was discovered that he was part of the civil rights movement. A coach at Mississippi Vocational was able to get him on scholarship there, and he played one more year.

He was then drafted in the 14th round by the Rams.

Deacon Jones proceeded to become the greatest defensive end in NFL history. For my money, 52 years after he came into the league in 1961, he's still the greatest defensive end in NFL history.

Because I started watching football seriously when I was 6, I saw Deacon Jones in his heyday. And, to use Eli 11.10s phrase, he was a beast.

In 1967, he had 26 sacks. In 1968, he had 24 more. Those are unofficial totals, because sacks weren't even a statistic back then, but it's been verified from game logs and video.

The official NFL record for sacks in one season is 22.5. So Jones had more sacks than the NFL record--in consecutive years--and did it in 14 regular season games, not 16.

9 players in NFL history have had 20 sacks or more in a season. No one has ever done it twice. Deacon Jones did it four times, plus seasons with 19 and 18 sacks (again, in 14 games).

Football is a violent game today, but it's mild compared to the 1960s. Defensive lineman back then used a brutal technique called the "head slap", and it's exactly what it sounds like. At the start of a play, the defensive end would explode out of their stance and try to slap the offensive lineman right on the ear hole of their helmet.

Defensive linemen would also tape rows of pennies to their fingers to make their hands heavier. Or, if they were particularly nasty, thumb tacks.

Casts? Those were weapons.

It was a different world, and Deacon Jones ruled that world. He was stronger, faster, and quicker than anyone. And he was tenacious, incredibly so.

Ironically, off the field, Jones was a very gentle fellow. A nice guy. That makes me like him even more.

Here's a terrific video compilation of Deacon Jones doing what he did best: destroying quarterbacks. Even by today's standards, his speed and quickness are incredible.

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