Greg Pinto, the 48-year old stepson of legendary football player Deacon Jones, says that if the master could have the final say at his funeral; “He would enjoy seeing all of the people, point to the ceiling and say I gave it everything I had.”
The Hall of Fame defensive end credited with terming the word sack for how he knocked down quarterbacks died of natural causes on June 3. He was 74. His wife of more than three decades Elizabeth Jones and stepson Greg Pinto survive him.
Jones was the colorful and outspoken leader of the L.A. Rams Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and called Jones the “greatest defensive end of modern football,” by his coach George Allen. The Allen family had Jones present George Allen for his Hall of Fame induction in 2002.
His unofficial 159½ sacks for them and 173½ for his career—propelled him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980
A 14th-round draft pick in 1961 out of Mississippi Valley State, Jones was one of the most durable players, missing just five games in his 14 pro seasons.
He once said: “Coming from a poor, inner-city neighborhood myself, I have an intimate knowledge of all of the problems people face there. It’s not just the inability to afford a good education that is a problem. Inner-city kids have to be prepared for college in every sense. For instance, kids from Beverly Hills grow up hearing about the stock market and real estate deals over the dinner table. When kids from the ghetto enter college and the workplace, they don’t know a thing about what they hear. And they are never told exactly what their commitment to their own neighborhoods must be.”
He established a non-profit organization in his name The Deacon Jones Foundation in Los Angeles 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.
In the NFL he was a giver, of tremendous pain as a defensive lineman who is known for inventing the now outlawed head slap he utilized to get to the quarterback.
Jones was a guest star on a handful of television shows—including episodes of Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple—and appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film Heaven Can Wait.
“He was honest and some of his comments were outrageous but also true. He was very confident and thoughtful. I can’t think of a bad memory about him,” said Pinto.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant,” said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, whose father, George, coached Jones with the . “His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.”
“Deacon Jones has been the most inspirational person in my football career,” said former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.
Jones made the Pro Bowl every year from 1964-70 and played in eight overall. He combined with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy on a defensive line that at times was unblockable.
Olsen died in March 2010 at age 69 and Lundy died in February 2007 at 71. Grier, who is 80, is the only surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome.
Jones played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1961-1971, as a San Diego Charger from 1972-1973, and finished his career in 1974 as a Washington Redskin.
In the world of football, Deacon is most well known as the man who coined the term ‘sack.’
He was named the ‘Secretary of Defense’ by Los Angeles fans, the ‘Most Valuable Ram of All Time,’ by the Los Angeles Times, and has been recently named as ‘Defensive End of the Century’ by Sports Illustrated. He was unanimously voted to the NFL’s 75 Year All Time Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
As a personality in both radio and television, Deacon is almost as well known for his humor, candor, charisma, and interesting and knowledgeable assessment of the game. He tells it like it is. Deacon’s media and broadcasting credentials are numerous and include a range of venues, from countless television appearances on shows like Up Close, Hardcore Football, Monday Night Live, and Pro Magazine, to being a member of the Los Angeles Rams broadcast team as color analyst and personality on Fox Sports Network’s NFL This Morning. Football fans love the intimacy and behind-the-scenes insight that Deacon brings to the game. He has appeared on virtually every television and radio sports talk show in both the U.S. and Canada.
Marketing, corporate imaging, and public relations have been Deacon’s forte since he left the game. He has worked for companies as diverse as the Miller Brewing Company, Hagar Slacks, Pacific Coast Medical Enterprises, and Epson America, and represented the NFL and Champion Products as spokesman for their Throwback campaigns. He was in constant demand as a motivational speaker at corporate sales meetings and special events.
Deacon was chairman for AstraiZeneca Pharmaceuticals in their national hypertension awareness program, ‘State of the Heart,’ represented the NFL with their licensees and advertisers, and is a favored guest on all television and radio stations.
Deacon’s recent trip to Iraq to visit the troops has added another dimension to what he does and where his interests lie. He has agreed to join forces with General Franks in an effort to pay homage and lend support to the families of the military men and women who have been either killed or wounded in action.
Deacon has received numerous awards for community work, in particular, his work with youngsters and youth organizations.
(Associated Press contributed to this story.)