Produced on December 9, 1938, in Eatonville, Florida, David “Deacon” Jones became among the NFL’s all time defensive greats. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, Jones expired on June 3, 2013, in Anaheim Hills, California. After sitting out a year, Jones played one more season of college football at Mississippi Vocational College. The Los Angeles Rams picked him in the 14th round of the NFL Draft in 1961.
Despite his unheralded school career, the 6’5″, 272-pound Deacon Jones immediately became a dominant professional defensive end thanks to his speed and stamina. Also called “The Secretary of Defense,” he’d knock opposing linemen off guard along with his patented head smack before flattening the quarterback—a move he reached so frequently, he coined the term “sack.”
Jones earned one closing Pro Bowl choice carrying out a trade to the San Diego Chargers in 1972. He spent two seasons together with the Chargers, then one more with the Washington Redskins before declaring his retirement. Even though the NFL didn’t yet record the “sacks” he popularized, Jones is credited with the unofficial total of 173 1/2 over his 14-year career. He also missed only five of a possible 196 regular season matches—a remarkable record of durability in a physically demanding sport.
Deacon Jones loved playing in his free time, making appearances in such television shows as Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple. He also had a part in the Warren Beatty football movie Heaven Can Wait (1978) and starred in a collection of Miller Lite ads.
Jones was inducted to 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 next year, he found the Deacon Jones Foundation, which works to offer chances for kids from inner cities. The alltime defensive great expired on June 3, 2013, in the age of 74, in Anaheim Hills, California. He was survived by his own wife, Elizabeth, and stepson, Greg Pinto.