By the CNN Staff
(CNN) — David “Deacon” Jones, who is credited with coining the term “sacking the quarterback” during his stint as one of the greatest defensive ends in the NFL, has died.
He was 74.
Jones died of natural causes at his home in Southern California, the Washington Redskins said Monday night.
“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history,” said Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen. “Off the field, he was a true giant. His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him.”
The 6-foot-5-inch tall Jones piled up 173 sacks during a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Redskins. That’s second only to Reggie White.
During that time, Jones missed just six games.
“Jones could split helmets with his head slap, and his outside speed rush was devastating,” wrote Paul Zimmerman, aka Dr. Z, in Sports Illustrated. “Plus, Jones was relentless; he never gave up. He collected sacks on his hands and knees.”
Jones started his NFL career in 1961 with the Rams. He spent 11 seasons there. And along with Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy and Merlin Olsen, he formed one of the best lines of all time: the Fearsome Four.
One of the most feared linesmen in the game, Jones perfected the head slap (now illegal) and said he wished that, after messing with him, opposing players would wake up “hopefully on Tuesday.”
“His eyes were as red as fire, and after he took his stance, he was pawing his leg in the dirt like a bull,” remembered Rayfield Wright of his first NFL start. Wright, playing with the Dallas Cowboys, was facing Jones in that 1969 game.
“As an offensive lineman, you’re taught only to hear the quarterback’s voice. Nothing else,” Wright said in the Sports Illustrated interview. “I’m listening in case there’s an audible, and in the pause between ‘Huts!’ I hear a deep, heavy voice say, ‘Does yo’ mama know you’re out here?’ It was Deacon Jones.”
Rams fans nicknamed him “Secretary of Defense.” And in 1999, Sports Illustrated named him the “Defensive End of the Century.”
In 1972, he was traded to the Chargers, and he finished his career with the Redskins in 1974.
In later years, Jones worked as a radio host, served as a spokesman for the blood-pressure drug Atacand and started the Deacon Jones Foundation to mentor inner-city high school students.
He also published an autobiography titled, what else, “Head Slap.”