David Jones, also known as Deacon Jones, was a former professional American football player born on December 9, 1938 in Eatonville, Florida. He was an active sportsman during his childhood and played football, baseball, and basketball. He developed a tumor in his thigh as a teenager which he had to have surgically removed. During his early years, he was a victim of racism which motivated him to become a civil rights activist later. Once he witnessed a car full of teenagers beat up an elderly black woman on her way to church, who died from the injuries but the incident was never reported to or investigated by the police. He once mentioned that it was racial injustice that motivated him to play a violent sport like football so he could have an outlet for his anger and frustration.
He was offered a scholarship to play at South Carolina State University in 1958 where he played football for a year. His scholarship was revoked because of his participation in a civil rights protest. His coach offered him a scholarship at Mississippi Vocational College so he enrolled there in 1960. He was still a victim of blatant racism as Jones and his teammates were refused housing on several occasions and had to sleep in the gym. In 1961, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. Here, along with teammates Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Merlin Olsen, he became part of a defensive line that came to be known as the Fearsome Foursome which is widely considered as one of the best defensive line ups of all time. Between 1965 to 1969, he won All-Pro honors by unanimous decision. From 1964 to 1970, he was part of the Pro Bowl each year, and again in 1972 as well.
In 1962, 1964, 1965, and 1966 Deacon Jones was named as his team’s Outstanding Defensive Lineman, which was no mean feat given the team’s talented line up. The 1971 season was one of the worst of his career, as he sprained an arch, causing him to miss many games, bringing his career average to an all time low. Subsequently, in 1972, he was traded to the San Diego Chargers. His career with the Chargers was just as outstanding. He was named the team’s defensive captain as well as the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Week four times. Jones is considered to have revolutionized defensive tactics in football with a technique that came to be known as sacking, which caused the other player to lose their focus temporarily giving him an extra few seconds to get ahead. This technique was later outlawed by the NFL, but Jones is still considered as one of the best sackers in the game.
After this, he spent his last season with the Washington Redskins and then retired in 1974 after 14 seasons in the NFL. After football he took up acting and appeared in several TV shows and commercials such as The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, Jack & the Beanstalk, Wonder Woman and Heaven Can Wait. He also worked as a radio analyst and was deeply involved in community service. He also worked for several companies such as the Miller Brewing Company, Haggar Clothing, Pacific Coast Medical Enterprises, Epson America and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals (where he served as the Chairman). In 1980, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jones named himself “Deacon” because he thought David Jones was too common a name. He died on June 3, 2013 at the age of 74. The Deacon Jones award has been created in his honor. His wife Elizabeth is the COO and CFO of the Deacon Jones Foundation.