Father Of The 'Sack' Hall Of Famer 'Deacon' Jones Dies

Hall of Fame defensive lineman David "Deacon" Jones has died. He was one of the Fearsome Foursome on the Los Angeles Rams and made the head slap defensive move an art form. He was 74.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally this hour, we remember one of the NFL's all-time defensive greats. Deacon Jones died Monday. He was an immensely popular player, and he popularized the term we hear all the time in football, the quarterback sack.

Here's NPR's Nathan Rott.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: David Jones, or Deacon Jones because he said nobody would ever remember a football player with a name like David, was a ferocious hitter. And as he explained in his enshrinement to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there was a reason for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DEACON JONES: Violence in its many forms is an involuntary quest for identity.

ROTT: Born in the segregated South in 1938, he said he felt he had a mandate for war, a mandate he would take to the football field in college and then later to the NFL. He spent nearly all of his 14 years as a professional football player with the Los Angeles Rams. It was there that he perfected his signature move: the head slap. He told NFL Films that it left offensive players reeling and gave him an edge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JONES: Because any time you go upside a man's head, then they have a tendency to blink their eyes or close their eyes, and that was all I needed.

ROTT: Jones was the leader of the Fearsome Foursome. Together with Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy and Merlin Olsen, they were one of the most feared defensive lines in NFL history. When they weren't punishing ball carriers, though, they showed a lighter side, recording songs like this: fly in the buttermilk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FEARSOME FOURSOME: (Singing) I got me a story that I want to tell. You people out there all know it well. It was a fly in the buttermilk, shoo, fly, shoo. Flies in the buttermilk, shoo, fly, shoo.

ROTT: They also capitalized on their fame, making guest appearances in shows like "The Brady Bunch."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BRADY BUNCH")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) I want you to meet Deacon Jones. Deacon, this is Peter Brady.

JONES: (as himself) Hi, Peter.

CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT: (as Peter Brady) Hi.

JONES: (as himself) Hey, you've got a pretty good grip. What position do you play?

KNIGHT: (as Peter Brady) End, offensive end.

JONES: (as himself) Gee, that's bad news for fellows like me. Take it easy.

KNIGHT: (as Peter Brady) I will.

ROTT: After retiring from the game in 1974, Jones went on to be a sports broadcaster, speaker and actor. He also started the Deacon Jones Foundation, which provides college expenses for inner-city students in exchange for volunteer work in their communities. Jones believed that everybody deserved an equal chance if they worked hard for it.

Again, his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JONES: The secretary of defense would like to leave you with one last thought. Every man is free to rise as far as he is able or willing, but it is only the degree to which he thinks and believes that determines the degree to which he will rise. Thank you very much.

ROTT: For Jones, that degree drove him to be one of the best ever to play the game. He was 74 years old.

Nathan Rott, NPR News.

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