LOS ANGELES — Hall of Fame football player David “Deacon” Jones, one of the Los Angeles Rams’ heralded Fearsome Foursome whose outspoken persona and relentless pursuit of quarterbacks helped turn defensive linemen into stars, died Monday of natural causes at his home in Anaheim Hills. He was 74.
His death was confirmed late Monday by his stepson Greg Pinto.
Jones, who played for the Rams from 1961 to ’71 and later for the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, was the league’s top defensive player in 1967 and ’68 and was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
He was “without doubt the greatest defensive end to play in modern day football,” George Allen, coach during many of his best seasons with the Rams, said during Jones’ 1975 news conference announcing his retirement.
Jones, 6 feet 5 and 272 pounds, was quick and quotable, an obscure 14th-round draft choice from Mississippi Vocational College who did not stay obscure for long. “When I first came up, defensive linemen were dull as hell,” he told The Times in 1980. “Some were great performers, but nobody knew who they were. I set out to change that.”
He not only took great pleasure in tackling quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, he came up with the name “sack” to better describe it. Times columnist Jim Murray once said Jones “eats quarterbacks for a living.”
And his signature move, a head slap that pulverized offensive linemen who tried to keep him from the quarterback, was so dangerous it was banned by the NFL.
“It was the greatest thing I ever did and when I left the game they outlawed it,” he told The Times in 2009. “I couldn’t be more proud.”