Deacon Jones: The Birth of a Films Vault Legend

Paul Camarata, Tales from the Vault

It’s long been the observation of one of my fellow Films producers that nearly every NFL player he’s ever met has a noteworthy physical presence, either surprisingly smaller or remarkably bigger than the producer was expecting.  That observation popped into my head on the afternoon I had the privilege of interviewing the great Deacon Jones, who even as a septuagenarian, struck me as more angular, fit, and towering that I’d anticipated.

Deacon’s wit, wisdom, and spirit were even larger than his body.  He lit up regaling us with tales of battling with and against the likes of Forrest Gregg, Merlin Olsen, and Johnny Unitas, and as he spoke, I noticed a jewel encrusted ring on one of the pool-cue-long fingers he’d unfurl for emphasis at critical points in each story.  It was Hall of Fame Weekend, and we were sitting in Canton, Ohio, so I asked if that was his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.  He said no, this is from the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.  You’re in that too? I asked.  “You name the Hall of Fame and I’m in it,” he quipped.

That was three years ago, and the Deacon still had it – the same verve and delivery that made his soundbytes, stories, and sermons the stuff of Films legend, beginning nearly three decades ago when he first explained to one of our cameras the origin of his term “sacking the quarterback.”  In honor of the late, great, David “Deacon” Jones, a star and friend of NFL Films since his days in the Fearsome Foursome, we present below the 1984 NFL Pro Magazine feature in which Deacon’s famous sack definition interview first appeared.  The piece was produced by TCIPF’s own Vault Keeper, from an interview conducted by Steve Sabol.  Listen closely, and you can hear Steve laughing off-camera at Deacon’s answers.  And really, you can’t blame Steve for cracking up.  Whether it came to bringing the funny, or simply walking in the room, Deacon Jones was nothing less than a giant.

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