Deacon Jones, who died on Monday from natural causes at the age of 74, wasn't just a Pro Football Hall of Famer, he was an enduring NFL icon who changed the very fabric and lexicon of the game.
"He was an icon among the icons," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday. "Even with his fellow Hall of Famers, Deacon Jones held a special status. He was a hard-charging football player and the original sack artist who coined the term. He is warmly regarded by his peers not only as one of the greatest players in NFL history but also for his tremendous influence and sense of humor."
Jones did indeed invent the term "sack," and he was one of the best ever at collecting them even before they became an official stat. After his playing days ended, Jones remained an animated and revered figure around the game for decades, and in the summer of 2004 he paid a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Then Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen had a connection with the great pass-rusher, as his father, George Allen, had been Jones' coach and mentor. Allen called Jones to request that he visit his considerable motivational skills on a team that was trying to rebound from the disappointing 2003 season that followed its Super Bowl championship in 2002. Jones did not disappoint.
Jones' message, heavy on such concepts as commitment to the team and passion for the game, would play just as well with the current Buccaneer squad.
“They can call it cockiness, but you back it up with hard work, execution and commitment,” Jones told the 2004 team. “There are five things that define a champion: teamwork, hard work, pride, determination and competitive spirit.”
Jones' speech came just as the Buccaneers were about to embark upon another training camp, and it offered a huge dose of what then-Head Coach Jon Gruden liked to refer to as "juice." Buccaneers.com covered Jones' visit at the time – for a more in-depth look at what Jones had to say nine years ago, and to remember one of the greatest players in NFL history, click here to review that coverage.