The cat who invented the term “sack” – Hall of Fame defensive end David “Deacon” Jones – has died at the age of 74.

Jones, nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense,” was not only a legendary pioneer; he was a true character of the game. He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award winner and was named to eight Pro Bowls during his 14-year NFL career with the LA Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, before retiring in 1974.

“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history, said Redskins EVP/General Manager Bruce Allen. “On the field, he was a true giant.”

Jones was one of the last remaining bridges between the “old school,” vicious-hitting, QB-demolishing NFL and today’s inhibiting, “safety-conscious” league. He’s from a time when wicked aggression and malicious intention was a staple of great NFL players and teams.  

In interviews, Jones would always talk about his era of NFL ball, when the QB was fair game and defenders could hit players from head-to-toe. In person, his hands were like mangled baseball mitts, he says, from slapping the heads, and ripping his hands open on the helmet screws, of impeding lineman.

Jones, a 14th-round pick who came into the league with a chip on his shoulder and, as he calls it, “a hate of QBs,” was the ringleader of the “Fearsome Foursome,” the legendary Rams defensive line that consisted of Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier and Merlin “Father Murphy” Olsen. Imposing lines were forever judged by their standard of ferociousness and pass-rushing excellence.

Although sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, Jones would probably be in the Top 3 of all-time in that category. He unofficially recorded 22 twice with the Rams, and posted three 20-plus sack seasons in his career. His 173.5 career sacks would rank third on the all-time list behind Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198).

Jones became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in ’80. Thirty-three years later, the sack is probably the most game-changing and valued defensive play in football. His NFL legacy is safe, and to this day only a handful of cats can be mentioned in the same legendary breath.