Deacon Jones “The Secretary of Defense”

Daniel Collins

Written by: Daniel Collins

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David “Deacon” Jones is one of the best defensive linemen ever to suit up in NFL history. He is credited with having revolutionized the defensive end position due to his speed, durability, agility, and lateral quickness, which allowed him to play sideline-to-sideline. His specialty, however, was pressuring the quarterback and taking them down with a vengeance. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder also coined the phrase “sacking the quarterback” and mastered “the head slap,” — a move so devastating that the NFL outlawed it once he retired.

Jones played 14 years overall in the NFL, spending 11 of those seasons with the Los Angeles Rams (1961-1971). He was also with the San Diego Chargers (1972-1973) for campaigns and the Washington Redskins (1974) for one. Former Los Angeles Rams coach and Hall of Famer George Allen tabbed Jones as the “Greatest Defensive End of Modern Football.”

Early Life/ College Adversity

Born December 9, 1938, Jones was one of 10 members in his household and grew up impoverished in Eatonville, Florida. While in high school — where he starred in baseball, basketball, and football for Hungerford High — Jones developed a tumor in his thigh which he had successfully removed.

After taking time off from school to go to work in New York, Jones decided to continue his education and play college football at South Carolina State in 1958. But he had his scholarship revoked by the school after participating in a peaceful Civil Rights Movement protest. Jones would eventually find his way to Mississippi Vocational College, now known as Mississippi Valley State, where he would play one year before being taken by the Los Angeles Rams in the 14th round (186th overall selection) in the 1961 NFL Draft.

“Secretary Of Defense”

Jones made an immediate impact for the Rams in his rookie season with eight sacks (unofficially) — sacks were not an official stat until 1982 — and three fumble recoveries while starting six of 14 games. He would become a full-time starter in year two, and with the addition of 1962 first-round pick Merlin Olsen on the same side of him of the defensive line, Jones increased his sack production to a team-high 12 sacks.

Jones had a breakout season in 1964 — recording a career-high 22 sacks — which saw the rise of the “Fearsome Foursome” as Jones and Olsen continued to handle the left side of the front seven while Rosey Grier along with Lamar Lundy controlled the left side. Jones, nicknamed “Secretary of Defense,” by Los Angeles fans, and the rest of the defense was a major reason that the Rams started to win games. From 1965-1970, Jones registered double-digit sacks in each season — totaling 86.5 quarterback takedowns during this stretch — and, as a result of such masterful performance, he was named all-NFL as well as to the Pro Bowl in every one of those six seasons. He was also named All-Pro along with being selected Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back campaigns (1967,1968) as he produced 21.5 and 22 sacks, respectively. The Rams posted a 53-27-3 record and reached the playoffs twice during this run.

Jones, hampered by a foot injury, compiled just 4.5 sacks in 12 contests in 1971. Prior to the 1972 NFL season, Jones was shipped off to San Diego in a four-player trade that also netted the Rams three draft picks. 1973 Pro-Bowler continued to play well for the Chargers, topping the team’s defensive lineman in tackles while also compiling 11 sacks in his two years with the team. His biggest accomplishment with the Washington Redskins was that he kicked the team’s final extra-point in their 42-0 victory over the Chicago Bears to conclude the 1974 regular season.

Jones was credited with 173.5 sacks to go along with two safeties, a pair of interceptions, and two interceptions over 191 career games. He also returned two kickoffs and added one extra point. Jones was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and passed away on June 3. 2013, at the age of 74.

Recap Career Achievements/Recognition

Two-Time All-Pro Selection (1968, 1969)

Six-Time All-NFL Selection (1965-1970)

Three-All- NFL Second-Team Choice (1964, 1970, 1972)

Four-Time All-Western Conference Selection (1966, 1967, 1968, 1969)

All-NFC (1970)

All-AFC Second Team (1972)

Eight-Time Pro Bowl Selection (1965-71,1973)

1960’s NFL All-Decade Team

All-Time NFL Team (2000)

NFL 75th Anniversary Team (1994)

2-Time Defensive Player of the Year (1967, 1968)

Pro Football Hall of Fame (1980) — Selected first-time on the ballot. The only 14th-round selection in Canton.

The Deacon Jones Award is given out annually to the league leader in sacks.

Nicknamed “Secretary of Defense” and was part of the “Fearsome Foursome”, which is one of the best defensive lines ever.

Topped 20 sacks in a season three times and recorded 173.5 sacks for his career, which would be good enough for third all-time behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

Led the Rams in Sacks eight straight seasons (1962-70)