NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Deacon Jones, who died Monday at age 74, an "icon among icons." Even among the greatest football players of all time, Jones stood out.
"He was the inspirational leader of our Hall of Famers," Pro Football Hall of Fame vice president Joe Horrigan told NFL Network's "NFL AM" on Tuesday. "I emphasize that. Every year, Deacon would come back and talk to the new class of Hall of Famers coming in. And he would talk about the obligation and what it meant to be a Hall of Famer."
There are all-time great players at each position, and there are all-time greats at any position. Jones falls into the latter category. He changed the game on the field and then helped guide future greats. (Just listen to Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith get emotional in the video above.)
The NFL didn't record sacks before the 1980s, but the Rams say Jones had three 20-sack seasons. Jarrett Bell of USA Today notes that Jones would have had 26 sacks in 1967, which still would be a record. And he would have done it in just 14 games.
"I could do things on the football field that probably haven't haven't been done since," Jones once told NFL Films.
Those of us who never saw Jones play know him as a fascinating orator and keeper of the NFL flame. The best way to honor him following his passing is to listen to his words and those around him who knew him best. The NFL Films video below is a great start. His words on inventing the term quarterback "sack" and playing while hurt are priceless.
Jones' incredible Hall of Fame speech from 1980, deliciously delivered in the third person, starts out this way: "Violence in its many forms is an involuntary quest for identity. When our identity is in danger, we feel certain that we have a mandate for war."
And later in the speech: "Early in life, I learned that all life is a purposeful struggle," he said.
That purpose was evident in everything Jones did. May he rest in peace.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.