Friday, September 22, 2023

Rosey Grier: Showing Deacon Jones How to Perfect the Headslap

 By John Turney  
Deacon Jones, the Hall-of-Fame defensive end, is often credited for inventing the head slap, a pass rush move that involves using an open hand to hit or slap an offensive lineman's helmet in order, according to Jones, to get him to close his eyes so he could use his quickness to blow by the lineman.

However, Jones learned the finer points from Rosey Grier who the Rams traded for in 1963. He'd been using it for years and the still in this post will illustrate. Jones took a year to watch and study, it seems, then he began to adopt and develop the move, using fakes, double headslaps. 

Prior to Grier's arrival, you can see it every once in a while -- it is on one clip versus the Giants in Yankee Stadium in 1961. However, it was a fake outside then a right-handed blow to the right tackle's head -- it was a headslap but it was not what we became familiar with later on. 

Jones' version of the headslap and the moves worked off of it (slap, dip and rip for example) became so successful that in the late 1960s he was known for it and had scores of defensive linemen copy it, guys like Claude Humphrey, Carl Eller, Rich Jackson, Jack Youngblood and many others. 

Offensive lineman countered by throwing their right hand up to block the hit to their head. Who can blame them?

So, he was not the first, and Grier may not have been. We are not sure anyone knows but from looking at films that are available it seems he used it the most in the early 1960s. 

But it's pretty clear that Grier was doing it before Jones even entered into the league and films show that it wasn't until 1964 that Jones began to use it as a primary move.
Rosey Grier, 1960 vs Dallas, left-handed headslap

These are a couple of shots in 1961—Rosey Grier left-handed slap

A few shots of Grier, in 1962, with his signature pass-rush move

A couple shots of Grier in his first season with the Rams note that
he is the only one using the headslap

In Game One of 1964 Deacon Jones, the left DE, is using the move
and used it more and more over the next decade—making it his signature move

Later in 1964, again, both Jones and Grier slapping lids

In 1964 Deacon Jones used the more often than Grier, and had a lot
of success with it—going to a Pro Bowl for the first time. The eight
shots above illustrate that fairly well.

Here are a few stills of Jones in his later years executing his move—

Tackles started to throw their hands up to block the slap—

Here are a few of the copycats:  Rich Jackson, Carl Eller, Claud Humphrey and Jack Youngblood—

So, Grier doing the move and probably showing the Deac the right way to do it and how to make it work in no way takes anything from Jones' accomplishments. Everyone has to learn from someone.

As we go through older films we will keep an eye out of those who may have preceded Grier. Ernie Stautner would hit guys in the head, as would Big Daddy Lipscomb when he became a Steeler. Stautner in the 1950s seemed, however, to use more of the heel of his hand rather than the pure head slap. It looks more like doling out punishment than trying to get a guy to close his eyes so he could slip by.

But, we'll let you know.

1 comment:

  1. very informative piece as usual John....I wish there was more film of the Daddy easily accessible....perhaps not directly "on point", but awhile back the Journal had a clip of Big Daddy dropping into pass coverage (also available on the 1960 49er highlight film at around 10:11 ) and on the particular broken play just about removed John Brodie's head with a clubbing to Brodie's helmet......the Deacon of course took it to another (and justly publicized) level