Deacon Jones, an NFL Hall of Famer with the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers and, arguably, the best defensive end of all time, died of natural causes in his Anaheim Hills home Monday.
He was 74, which is one digit off from his jersey number (75) that the Rams retired in 2009.
With Jones' death, the Rams' “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of the 1960s-70s is down to one survivor. Merlin Olson and Lamar Lundy preceded Jones in death.
Only Rosey Grier remains.
Jones, who stood 6-foot-5, weighed 272 pounds and was nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” was considered “the greatest defensive end of modern football” by his onetime Rams coach, George Allen. Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.
The Floridian bedeviled quarterbacks like nobody's business and is credited with coining the term “sacks.” Ironically, it's unknown exactly how many sacks he recorded because that stat was not kept in the years after the Rams drafted him in the 14th round in 1961.
He played with LA through 1971, joined the Chargers for the 1972 and '73 seasons and ended his career with the Washington Redskins, who were then coached by Allen, in 1974.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” said Redskins executive vice president/general manager Bruce Allen, the late George's son, in announcing the former player's death last night. “Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him.”
Jones was an actor and R&B singer off the field, professions he continued to dabble in after his playing days ended. He also went on to be a sports broadcaster and businessman. He founded the Anaheim-based Deacon Jones Foundation in 1997 “to assist young people and the communities in which they live with a comprehensive program that includes education, mentoring, corporate internship and community service.”
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, the foundation's chief operating and financial officer. Information about funeral services was not immediately available. The Jones family has requested that their privacy be respected at this time, Bruce Allen said.