JAY DAVIS: Deacon Jones coined term ‘sack’


Thoughts went back to my youth, sitting around the old color television watching NFL football on a Sunday afternoon. Some of the memories were from black and white footage too.

What took me back to my early days of watching football was finding out that one of the greatest defensive ends of all time, David “Deacon” Jones had passed away at the age of 74.

Back in the early ‘70s, the Vikings and Rams, the Los Angeles Rams, would inevitably play twice a year. They would meet in the regular season and then again in the playoffs. The Vikings had the Purple People Eaters led by Alan Page and the Rams had the Fearsome Foursome led by Jones.

While Page was the best defensive tackle in the game, Jones was the best defensive end. He was relentless and he was mean. Jones had a trademark style of attacking the offense. He used a head slap that would knock a lineman off balance, sometime right on his butt. That head slap was brutal. I remember a story about a Rams offensive lineman who got so tired of being Jones’ whipping boy in practice that one day he took the screws out of his facemask and put them back in the other way around. When Jones went to practice his head slap, his hand gorged the screws and stuck right to the offensive lineman’s helmet.

Besides being a player so great he was a first ball Hall of Famer, Jones will always be remembered for inventing the sack. The stat for tackling the quarterback was not used in the NFL until 1982, so Jones never had an official one.

Thanks to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, I was able to get some numbers of just what kind of monster years Jones had. King reported that a football historian, John Turney, went back and studied Jones’ seasons from 1961 to 1970. During that time Deacon had 172 sacks, including seasons with 22, 24 and 26 sacks. Remember, the record for sacks in a season is 22.5 in 2001 by Michael Strahan. That record was set in a 16-game season. Seasons were only 12 and 14 games long in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

That alone will tell you just how much havoc Deacon Jones raised when he was on the field. Deacon has been described as having the speed of Bruce Smith, the bull rush of Reggie White and the relentlessness of Jared Allen.

What he had for me was that he played a major role in my learning to love the game of football.

He was the reason (on the Rams’ end) I couldn’t wait for kickoff when the Vikings and Rams were going to play on Sunday.

For every football fan, Deacon Jones should be remembered often when a defensive lineman gets a sack. Until Jones came along and invented the term (like the original Vikings “sacking” a village), all an announcer could tell the fans was that the defensive end had just tackled the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.




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