Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, July 9, 2002
Updated: July 10, 3:56 PM ET
Deacon Jones

Page 2 staff

Deacon Jones is a tough guy's tough guy. The Hall of Fame defensive end was the anchor of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome," and never met a quarterback he liked. In fact, Jones is widely credited with inventing the term "quarterback sack."

Deacon Jones
Deacon Jones defined toughness and revolutionized the role of the pass rusher.
An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Jones revolutionized the role of the pass rusher and was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968.

Page 2's Kevin Jackson caught up with Jones on Tuesday at the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic, sharing a table with fellow tough guys Lee Majors, James Garner, Paul Hornung and Alice Cooper. We learned that Deacon hasn't lost one bit of his feistiness.

1. Who's the toughest athlete in sports today?

Jones: I'd have to cast the vote for myself. Because No. 1, I'm probably the toughest (expletive) here. Ain't no question about that with me. I'm the toughest guy here. If you want to eliminate me from the pack, you can pick somebody normal. Of course, quarterbacks are eliminated. We definitely don't want none of them in that mix.

When you say tough, I got to be in that conversation. I'm clean. I mean, I ain't got no marks on me. I don't know nobody else who can say that who came out of any sport. I ain't got no marks on me, so I've got to be the baddest dude I know of.

2. Are football players the best athletes?

Craig Stadler
Golfers, such as Craig Stadler, are the best athletes, according to Jones.
Jones: No. We're not necessarily the best athletes. We're the toughest athletes, the most brutal and violent athletes. But when you get into technique and all that stuff, I'd say golfers are the best athletes.

Really? A tough guy like you says golfers?

Jones: For all the things that you have to do to complete a good golf shot, there's no other sport like that. In my game, at 70 percent, I can have one hell of a year. In golf, it's got to be 100 percent. It can't even be 99. At 99 percent in football, I'd be the best there ever was in the history of the game. But in golf, 99 percent might mean you hit a bad shot.

3. How has pro football changed since your day?

Jones: Well, they protect everybody now. The game is not wide open. What I mean by that, is a lot of the toughness has been chased out of the game. The game has a different philosophy now. It's still good football, and people still enjoy it, and it's popular, and it always will be.

But when you talk eras, you've got to talk rule changes. And the rule changes have really changed the area where I contributed to the game -- cutting back on the pass rushers' ability to get to the quarterback. I don't favor that too much. It's just more of an offensive game now, and everything is about protecting the quarterback. The game's paying more money than it did in my era, and I'm happy about that.

4. Who was the toughest offensive lineman for you to go up against?

Deacon Jones
Jones says toughness has been chased out of the NFL.
Jones: One of them wouldn't do against me. You should be asking me who were the toughest "two" linemen or what was the toughest combination or the toughest team -- because you'd definitely have to bring more than one when you come at me. If you just bring one, I'm going to kill somebody.

I saw a lot of Hall of Fame tackles in my career -- Forrest Gregg of the Green Bay Packers, Jim Parker of the Baltimore Colts, Bob St. Clair from the 49ers. I saw a lot of great athletes, a lot of guys who brought it to the game every week. To pick from that, it would be totally impossible for me. All of them are Hall of Famers & and when you've got those three letters "HOF" after your name, you're the best who ever played.

5. Putting all personal bias aside -- if you can do that -- is the "Fearsome Foursome" the best defensive front of all time?

Jones: Yes, no question about it. We set the pace. We started the trend. We proved that defensive lines can control the game. I don't think you'll find, even now, four men who had as much talent and doled out as much damage and devastation as our group. After our group came "The Purple People-Eaters," "The Steel Curtain," Dallas' "Doomsday" team and that Baltimore (Ravens) team. The dominant teams all had great defensive lines, and we had something to do with that trend. That's why they've changed so many rules. They don't want games controlled by defensive lines.

When the Ravens won the Super Bowl two years ago, a lot of people said they might have the greatest defense of all time. What do you make of that assessment?

Jones: You can't say that about a team that was only together for one year. And now, they're all broken up! So they'll never be ranked as the best defense of all time. Without a doubt, the Pittsburgh Steelers (of the '70s) and the Green Bay Packers (of the '60s) are going to fall into that conversation. That's because they played together for a long time. Now, you're not going to see the same team dominate two or three years in a row.

6. What do you make of the controversy involving steroid use in professional sports?

Jones: It's always going to be something. Every era has its own problems. I think it's something that each individual will have to give a lot of thought to because it will ruin your body and your life. My nephew ended up having to get a kidney transplant because of steroids. It's part of our culture now on every level -- from high school on up, they all use them.

Did you ever think about the long-term effects on your body when you were playing in the NFL?

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington could have Jones down.
Jones: Nah. You think about what your body is going to be like that day. You don't look long range, because you can't. You're playing a sport when you can get hurt any minute. You don't start looking at that until you get into the twilight of your athletic career. Before that, you think you're invincible. You think nothing can hurt you. You think you can put anything in your body, and it won't bother you. That's wrong, and you learn that from experience.

7. Do you have any regrets from your career? Is there one thing that you'd like to take a "mulligan" on and do over?

Jones: Yes. & I'd kill more quarterbacks. That's the only thing I could do differently. I couldn't be any nastier. I couldn't have any more intent. The only thing I do is "execute" better.

8. You're an L.A. guy. What actor would you want to play you in the movie, "The Deacon Jones Story"?

Jones: Well, somebody's definitely going to eventually play me because I'm writing the script right now. There are a number of guys that I wouldn't mind having cast as me. Denzel Washington is a guy I'd like. He's a guy who would definitely have me down. He's a hell of an actor. It's got to be somebody who can be big and who's got a body to him.

Who do you look forward to meeting at the ESPYs Awards show?

Shaq and Kobe. The rest of the guys I know. I haven't met Shaq and Kobe yet, and I've been a Laker fan since 1956 -- from Mikan to Magic.

Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal
Try picturing Jones at the ESPY post-show party with fellow L.A. heroes Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
9. What three people -- living or dead -- would you invite to your ideal dinner party?

Jones: One would be John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Another would be Martin Luther King Jr. And just for a change of pace, I'd take Malcolm X. Those were the people who fit my needs during the time when my life made transition and change. So, I'd take people who were instrumental in making all these things happen that are happening today.

10. If you could have one superpower -- the ability to turn invisible, the strength of 100 men or the ability to fly -- which one would you want?

Jones: I'm just another pretty face, so I'd want the ability to fly. I had the strength of 100 men and already used it all up. So being able to fly is the thing that would really interest me.