Jones died Friday night at his daughter's home in Broomfield, Colo., of complications of heart disease, according to his daughter, Sherrill Jones. She said her father also was battling skin cancer.
"He was a wonderful father and teacher," Sherrill Jones said. "He was our hero."
Born in Altoona, Penn., on Nov. 24, 1931, Jones grew up in the Harrisburg area. That's where he was introduced to the York Barbell Co.'s weights, which he began using to transform himself from a skinny 140-pound boy into an elite offensive lineman who packed 265 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame -- big for his day, small by today's standards.
"He was ahead of his time," his daughter said. "In high school and college, his friends and teammates used to make fun of him because he was in the gym while they were out dancing and chasing girls. He first got hooked on weights because he grew up near York, Pa., where York Barbells were made. He figured that was the way to go.
"He didn't consider himself a natural athlete, so he thought weight training would put him over the top. And it definitely did. He started out as a skinny pip-squeak, and by the time he finished his career, he was one of the giants."
After starring at the University of Maryland, where he was a two-way tackle and won a national title in 1953, Jones joined the Bears in 1954 as a tackle, then switched to guard the next season. One of the first pro players to lift weights, Jones played in seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1955 to 1961. In 1960, he played both offense and defense, one of the last 60-minute men in the NFL.
Jones permanently switched to defensive tackle in 1963, teaming with Doug Atkins and Bob Kilcullen to form one of the league's best defenses. He was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1966 so he could play a final season near his home in Rockville, Md.
After that, Jones joined Lou Saban's staff with the Denver Broncos, with whom he served as both strength and defensive line coach. He followed Saban to the Buffalo Bills in 1972 and returned to the Broncos in 1976, with whom he reunited with Joe Collier to help build the famed "Orange Crush" defenses.
In 1989, Jones returned to the weight room as strength and conditioning coach with the Cleveland Browns, and in 1991, he joined the staff of the New England Patriots. He retired after the 1992 season and returned to his home in Fraser, Colo., but quickly went back to work, this time for the Scottish Claymores of the NFL Europe league.
Jones was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Darlis, who died in 2002. He is survived by his daughter, three sons and five grandchildren.
A celebration of Jones' life will be held June 4 at the National Western Stock Show complex in Denver.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press