Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Deacon Jones: The Alpha and the Omega

By John Turney
What is well known about Deacon Jones is his dominance as a pass rusher at left defensive end from the time he was a rookie until the end. Well, he was all that, but technically, he began his career and ended it on different notes.

What is not commonly known is that Jones made his first NFL start as an offensive left tackle. In 1961 he opened the season trying to block the Colts defensive end Ordell Braase. He didn't start at defensive end until later in the season, though he played there.

The Rams settled on Jim Boeke at left tackle for the rest of the season (Boeke started in 1960 at left tackle as well). Boeke is not a household name but had a decent NFL career, being a starter at times for both the Rams and the Cowboys.

More people will remember Boeke from his acting career in which he had a few memorable bit parts. One ironically enough was in 1978's Heaven Can Wait in which he played "Kowalsky" in tandum with Deacon Jones's "Gorman" the two defensive lineman who tormented Warran Beatty when he was trying out (as Leo Farnsworth) as the Rams quarterback.

The memorable line from the Rams coach was "Look at Gorman and Kowalski. That's how they look when they eat".
Deacon Jones as "Gorman"
Jim Boeke as Kowalski

Back from sidebar—here are some shots of Deacon, then known as David Jones, in his first NFL start.


Jones didn't play well and was not in the game on the offensive line in the second half of the Colts-Rams 1961 opener. Perhaps the coaches had seen enough to know that perhaps Jones was better suited for defense.

Jones ended his career in 1974 with the Washington Redskins. He was a designated pass rusher that season, usually filling in for Ron McDole at left end in passing situations, but sometimes at right defensive end, subbing for Verlon Biggs. What is little know, though, is that Deacon's last regular season play was not on the defensive (or offensive) line. It was as a kicker.

Late in a 42-0 blowout of the Chicago Bears, Redskins coach George Allen called on Deacon to kick a PAT because Mark Moseley was injured. Or so the story goes:

Credit: Nate Fine. Getty Images.
Years ago Jones told us that he'd been a backup kicker for much of his career and that at halftime he asked Allen (who'd coached him from 1966-70 in Los Angeles) to let him kick in the game if there was an opportunity. With a blowout of a game the opportunity arose. According to Jones backup quarterback and full-time holder Joe Theismann wouldn't hold for him ("that little prick") but finally relented after a brief "conversation" with Jones.

Jones made the PAT, though it was not pretty. So there you have it. One of the greatest defensive ends in the history of the NFL opened his career as a left offensive tackle and ended it as a kicker.

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