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How Eatonville’s Deacon Jones made NFL history

Los Angeles Rams player was a civil rights advocate

Former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Deacon Jones speaks during a ceremony as his jersey number is retired before an NFL football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009, in St. Louis. The Packers won 36-17. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Deacon Jones speaks during a ceremony as his jersey number is retired before an NFL football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009, in St. Louis. The Packers won 36-17. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (AP2009)

David Jones was born on Dec. 9, 1938, grew up in Eatonville and graduated from the historic Hungerford High School in 1957. Jones would eventually become one of the greatest, most impactful players in NFL history. In fact, David “Deacon” Jones changed the game.

Selected in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL draft out of Mississippi Vocational College, now Mississippi Valley State, Jones became one of the most feared Los Angeles Rams in the franchise’s history, a quarterback’s worst nightmare.

With his 6 foot 5 inch height, strength and speed, the defensive end made a living sprinting down signal-callers, his never-ending wingspan splayed wide, ready to wrap up the likes of Johnny Unitas or Bart Starr.

A kind of pass-rusher that hadn’t been seen before, it’s said Jones coined the term “sack.” He certainly showed other players how it’s done.

The Rams' David (Deacon) Jones has little Mike Garrett in his grip and the ball is flying loose on an interrupted left-end sweep by the Chargers at Los Angeles, Sept. 4, 1971. Tackle Merlin Olsen backs up Jones at left. San Diego recovered the fumble and went on to win the exhibition, 20-14. (AP Photo/David F. Smith)
The Rams' David (Deacon) Jones has little Mike Garrett in his grip and the ball is flying loose on an interrupted left-end sweep by the Chargers at Los Angeles, Sept. 4, 1971. Tackle Merlin Olsen backs up Jones at left. San Diego recovered the fumble and went on to win the exhibition, 20-14. (AP Photo/David F. Smith) (AP 2020)

According to Pro Football Weekly, the son of Eatonville finished with 173.5 sacks in his 14 year NFL career, third to only Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

Nicknamed “The Secretary of Defense,” Jones played in the NFL from 1961-1974, primarily for the Rams, making up a part of Los Angeles’ famed “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line.

He played the final 3 seasons of his NFL career with the Chargers and Redskins.

When he retired from the game, he had made 8 Pro Bowls, 5 All-Pro Teams, and was twice named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility, cemented Jones’ legend for his abilities on the football field.

Former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Deacon Jones, left, poses with his bust and a drawing of him in action after enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 2, 1980.  Jones was presented for induction by former Rams head coach George Allen, eight.   (AP Photo)
Former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Deacon Jones, left, poses with his bust and a drawing of him in action after enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 2, 1980. Jones was presented for induction by former Rams head coach George Allen, eight. (AP Photo) (AP 2020)

Jones was also more than a football player. He was an advocate for civil rights. He was a philanthropist, establishing the “Deacon Jones Foundation” which aided underprivileged young people and their communities. He also dabbled in acting and was a businessman.

Jones died June 3, 2013, at 74 in California. His legacy as one of the greatest, most influential athletes to ever come from Central Florida lives on.


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