On this day in 1938, David “Deacon” Jones was born in Eatonville, Florida.
Jones attended Hungerford High School, where he excelled in athletics. No stranger adversity, Jones admitted after his career ended, “I thank God I had the ability to play a violent game like football. It gave me an outlet for the anger in my heart.”
Although he was a standout athlete in high school, major colleges and universities typically paid him little attention. However, he did receive a scholarship from the all-black South Carolina State University in 1956, after his senior year of high school.
Jones became involved with civil rights activities while attending SCSU, resulting in the scholarship being withdrawn in 1958. Two years later, a former SCSU coach encouraged him and other star athletes to play at Mississippi Vocational College. While there, NFL scouts recognized his talent. The following year, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, earning a starting position.
Jones played for the Rams until 1971. He and his three defensive line teammates were known as the “Fearsome Foursome.” He adopted the nickname “Deacon,” because “nobody would ever remember a player named David Jones.”
From 1973 to 1974, Jones played for the San Diego Chargers. He retired in 1974 as a Washington Redskin. Jones was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, as well as being named the NFL’s 75th anniversary all-time squad in 1994.
He released his autobiography, Headslap: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones, in 1996. One year later, he founded the Deacon Jones Foundation, an organization that works to provide opportunities to inner-city children.
Jones died at the age of 74 on June 3, 2013 in Anaheim Hills, California.