Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Deacon

I don't know if any fellow football fans caught last week's edition of "A Football Life" on the NFL Network, but the focus was the vaunted "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams from the late '60s.  If you didn't see it, you missed a fantastic hour of cable programming.

Perhaps the two most notable members of that unit were notorious nice guy and flower salesman Merlin Olsen, and the big, bad, boastful Dave "Deacon" Jones.  Both tremendous, game-changing players.  And both, deservedly, enshrined in Canton for the rest of time.

Now, I like Merlin just fine (rest in peace, sir), but Deacon is one of those guys I'd put on the NFL's Mount Rushmore.

This is my actual card; used the eBay photo

My first introduction to Deacon Jones -- like so many other football legends -- was via NFL Films as a teenager. Sure the highlights were great.  But more than that, the guy was gold when it came to giving a memorable soundbite, both during his playing days and (especially) after he hung up this cleats.  Deacon was never shy about sharing his feelings about, well, anything.

But when it came to discussing football and his own merits and accomplishments, Deacon was a big fan of Deacon.  After all, he did invent the term sack in regards to dragging down the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.  Many football historians agree that Jones would be atop the career sack list had that stat been kept for the better part of his playing days.  Kinda like with Bill Russell and blocked shots in the NBA.

Anyhow, I've been a fan of the Deacon Jones mystique and mastery for some time now.  He was the best at his position for many years and is acknowledged as perhaps the greatest pass rusher of all time.  He was mean and nasty and played without regards for his opponent's welfare (head slap, anyone?).  Hell, to this day, Jones still speaks ill of quarterbacks.  All of them.  Both active and retired.  Living and deceased.  Even those QBs who played on his own team, like the great Roman Gabriel.

I mean, any player who played as hard and fast as Deacon, and still carries personal grudges to this day is A-OK in my book.  That's a guy who gave his life to the game and, as a result, took the game to a different level.

Deacon is what I term an ultimate warrior of his sport.  Just like Pete Rose was for baseball, Larry Bird for the NBA, and Mark Messier for the game of hockey.  Guys who wouldn't exist but for the sport.

So, when last Wednesday the Fearsome Foursome show aired, I felt inspired to scour eBay for an affordable piece of cardboard that would honor Jones.  I'm embarrassed to say I've gone this long without anything from Deacon in my collection.

Well, I found the above card for under $4 and received it over the weekend.  To say I'm pretty satisfied is an understatement.  No, it's not a Topps card; that would have been my first option.  But, this 1967 Philadelphia card is both classic-looking and in absolutely great shape.  And it captures a snap shot of Deacon right in the midst of his dominating prime.

Plus, I received an education in old football terminology from the card back:

I didn't rub it off, but I know Deacon was fast.

"Stripping the interference on the wide sweeps" is one of those expressions that has gone the way of the Dodo, I guess.  I don't recall Greg Gumbel or Joe Buck using that slang recently, do you?

Anyhow, this probably bumps my Johnny Unitas card into the second position in regards to favorite football cards in my collection.


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