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Bruce Smith on Deacon Jones: 'This is going to be a great loss'

By Tim Graham

Deacon Jones, one of the greatest athletes to lace a pair of cleats, passed away Monday at 74.

He was a true NFL original, a legendary player and personality. He came up with the stat we now refer to as the sack. His notorious head slaps were a devastating tactic that since has been outlawed.

Buffalo Bills luminary Bruce Smith holds the official sacks record with 200, but we don't know how many sacks Jones should've been credited with. They weren't an official stat until 1982, and he retired after the 1974 season.

Historians estimate "The Secretary of Defense" recorded about 175 unofficial sacks. He claimed to have recorded 26 sacks in 1967 and 24 more in 1968, an ungodly sum in 14-game seasons.

Jones, a 14th-round draft choice, made eight Pro Bowls and was voted All-Pro five times.

Smith was a guest on the NFL Network this morning to discuss what Jones meant to the game.

Smith on Jones' legacy:

"Not only to coin the term 'sack,' but just his personality of being a defensive lineman and his charisma and his presence, when he walked into the room, he commanded respect, whether it was on the playing field or his choice of words.

"This is going to be a great loss for all of the football nation, the fans and particularly those who loved him dearly like myself."

Smith on his relationship with Jones:

"Deacon and I became very close friends during my days with the Buffalo Bills. I had an opportunity to befriend Deacon, and there were some low points or times in my career where I was not getting the sacks. I was missing a lot of sacks, and I would give Deacon a call and just pick his brain because that's the type of person that Deacon was. He was receptive. He was one that always wanted to help and give advice and critique.

"Those were the things I always appreciated the most about Deacon, just his personality within itself. I just find myself in a great deal of shock that we've lost not only a legend, but a legendary person."

Smith on where Jones ranks among the all-time greats:

"Deacon is right up there. I think there are about three guys that you put in a hat and you just pick a name out. Those three guys would certainly be Deacon, Reggie White and myself at the defensive end position.

"Certainly, roles were of different circumstances when Deacon played. Deacon played with Merlin Olsen and a number of other defensive linemen that were extremely talented. And Reggie also had an extremely talented defensive line.

"I really believe you take those three guys' names and put them in a hat and just pick one and feel comfortable with it. He's an all-time great, and he's a better individual. This is a sad day."


Bruce Smith
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |