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The Man Who Coined the Word ‘Sack’ in Football Dies at 74

For a long time, a quarterback's greatest fear was David "Deacon" Jones

Game ball presented to First Lady Betty Ford after a Monday night football game in September of 1975, signed by Deacon Jones. Image: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

For a long time, a quarterback’s greatest fear was David “Deacon” Jones. It was Jones who coined the word sack—because he did it so much. On Monday, Jones passed away of natural causes at the age of 74.

Since no one was keeping statistics on sacks until 1982, it’s hard to say how many Jones had. The St. Louis Ram’s statistics show Jones with 159 1/2 sacks in his time with them, and 173 1/2 in his entire career. He missed only five games in his fourteen seasons as a pro, and made the Pro Bowl for six straight years, from 1964 to 1970, where his defensive line was deemed “unblockable.” He was the first defensive lineman with 100 solo tackles and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

While the game is quite different today than it was when Jones played, no one doubts his skill. “The thing we’ve got to remember being players in this era is to really respect the game ‘back when,’ because those guys could really play,” Chris Long of the Rams, told the Associated Press. “Deacon Jones is a perfect example. This whole league and everybody in this game should honor the past and the players who played in that era. Those guys paved the way for us.”

Jones was also impressive off the field. “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. He had parts in acting – appearing on “Bewitched”, “The Brady Bunch” and “The Odd Couple” as well as the movie “Heaven Can Wait” and started a foundation of his own.

Bruce Allen, son of George Allen who coached Jones during his stint with the Los Angeles Rams, put Jones’ legacy this way. “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.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

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Primal Screens: How Pro Football Is Amping Up Its Game

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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