Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones was one of three former Tennessee State players and coaches in February named to the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
While it was important for Jones to be recognized amongst his peers, his career was special in the way it exhibited that football isn’t exactly everything. For a lot of America, that idea is inconceivable.
Too Tall got his nickname in college as the newly converted 6´9 defensive lineman who couldn’t fit into his practice shorts. There was no football team at his hometown Jackson Central-Mary High School until his senior year, so a feeder pattern training in the sport didn’t exist for him. He didn’t grow up deifying football, which eventually led to confusion when he left the Dallas Cowboys in 1979 to pursue a career in boxing.
Jones was a real force on the gridiron, immediately becoming an All-American lineman despite his limited football experience. He had come from the basketball team, where he didn’t get as much playing time as expected. The learning curve was remarkable, though. This was back when HBCUs were still sending players to the NFL draft, when Jones went to the Cowboys with the No. 1 overall pick in 1974.
Don't think J.J. Watt invented the batted down pass.
It just didn’t seem to faze him all that much. By 1977, he knew that his heart was in boxing, yet chose to honor the two years remaining on his contract with the Cowboys. Eventually, Jones went 6-0 against a crew of no-names.
Jones’ pro career isn’t highlighted by his pro debut against the Falcons, when he was perceived to have all-time great potential. Nor was it by his overall playoff performance the year the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII and Too Tall logged 23 tackles, two quarterback sacks, batted down two passes and forced a pair of fumbles. His career is highlighted by this fascination that someone would dare thumb his nose at professional football; especially, with all of that ability, promise and earning potential. Jones was like the Ricky Williams of his day, without the complexities of a marijuana habit, leaving the country and a suspected personality disorder.
Also, part of Williams’ reason for leaving football was the physical abuse he’d endure as an overused offensive weapon. Too Tall bounced, essentially, to get hit in the face.
Jones is still a football icon in the HBCU community. No one had ever seen anything like him, and with the direction black college sports are headed in, no one ever will.