The National Football League lost one of the pioneers of its sport with the passing of Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones late Monday night.
A 14th round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1961, Jones spent his 14-year NFL career redefining and revolutionizing the art of pass-rushing. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and an eight-time All-Pro selection who helped coin the term "quarterback sack," an act he did many times as a member of the Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins.
While sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982, the 6'5" Jones perfected his patented head-slap move to help get around offensive linemen and into the laps of quarterbacks.
Nicknamed the "Secretary of Defense," Jones was a two-time winner of the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award (1967, '68). He was also named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1960s and was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.
According to his official website, Jones was also named Sports Illustrated's "Defensive End of the Century." The NFL recognized Jones as a member of their 75th Anniversary Team in 1994.
As you'd expect, the passing of such a legend of the game brought out the very best commentary via Twitter.
Here's a sampling of the tweets that help tell the story of Deacon Jones' life.
Redskins executive vice president and general manager Bruce Allen broke the news of Jones' passing late Monday night. Allen is the son of Hall of Fame head coach George Allen, who coached Jones during his final NFL season with the Redskins in 1974.
An obviously heavy-hearted Allen had a brief statement on the life and career of Jones, who he considered a "big brother."
Allen, via the Redskins official website:
Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.
ESPN's KC Joyner notes that Jones' use of the term "sack" helped set the stage for the introduction of the stat several years later. Who knows what the statistic would be called today had it not been for Jones.
RIP to Deacon Jones. Without him, we would be using the term "dumps" instead of sacks. A feared pass rusher & literary life saver.— KC Joyner (@KCJoynerTFS) June 4, 2013
ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando notes that Jones helped start the legacy of pass-rushing defensive ends for the Rams. A member of the franchise's "Fearsome Foursome," Jones paved the way for not only more prolific pass-rushers in Los Angeles and St. Louis, but also the entire defensive end position.
Deacon Jones part of great Rams legacy at DE/outside rusher. Set standard for Youngblood, Greene, Carter, Little, Long.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@espn_nfcwest) June 4, 2013
Sando also refers to an article on Jones from 2009, in which the defensive end remembers his prolific usage of the "head slap" move. While Jones doesn't claim to have invented the maneuver, he did perfect it, and he clearly states that confidence in these words.
Deacon Jones, also in '09 LA Times piece: "The headslap was not my invention, but Rembrandt, of course, did not invent painting."— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@espn_nfcwest) June 4, 2013
Those at NFL.com's Around the League passed along this video from NFL Films, who chronicled the legendary career of Jones both on and off the field. His highlights from on the field are eye-opening—Jones was so clearly bigger and faster than the rest of his opponents—and his voice off it was telling of the confidence in his overwhelming talent.
"I was destined, like Ray Charles was born to sing the blues, Deacon was born to rush the quarterback” -Deacon Jones http://t.co/HW0N4he14E— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) June 4, 2013
Legends of the game separate themselves by demanding the respect of future generations. The following tweets from former and current NFL players help demonstrate what kind of influence Jones had on the art of the quarterback sack and playing the defensive end position—both then and now.
RIP to my friend, mentor and idol Mr. Deacon Jones. Was always there for me from the beginning and led the way for all if us DE's! #headslap— Michael Strahan (@michaelstrahan) June 4, 2013
I awake to the worst news in a while, David "Deacon" Jones is gone home! #SackMaster— Warren Sapp (@WarrenSapp) June 4, 2013
Got a lot of respect for Deacon Jones, the sackmaster. My prayers go out to him & family.— Darrelle Revis (@Revis24) June 4, 2013
Maybe most importantly, Jones left behind a lasting legacy that will carry on beyond his death. Many believe Jones remains the best defensive end in the history of the NFL. His impact on the game of football was clearly felt across the NFL landscape.
Coined term "sack", had signature move (headslap), & arguably best defensive player ever. Heck of an NFL influence, Deacon Jones. RIP.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) June 4, 2013
Just heard that Deacon Jones has passed away. I'm so saddened, words fail. They truly broke the mold with him. RIP, Deacon.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) June 4, 2013
Bummed about Deacon Jones. Know this: Deacon had 26 sacks in '67 -- which would still stand as #NFL record if sack was official stat in '67.— Jarrett Bell (@JarrettBell) June 4, 2013
Reggie, Bruce and LT were great pass rushers, but never a better one than Deacon Jones who played before numbers were official. RIP.— Dave Goldberg (@davegoldberg84) June 4, 2013
Deacon Jones filled my childhood and adolescent years in LA with vivid pictures of greatness. I thanked him every time I saw him. RIP 75— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) June 4, 2013
Farewell, DEACON JONES, author of the "QB sack." An all-time superstar and a big help in making this sport as popular as it is.— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) June 4, 2013
Jones was a pioneering force during the 1960s and 1970s. He still demands the respect of current and former players, NFL executives and the media. Few can claim such a resume.
An all-time great, Jones does not need statistics to stake his rightful spot among the NFL's greatest ever defensive players.
The NFL lost one of its great ambassadors in David "Deacon" Jones Monday night. He was 74 years old.