Yesterday's news of the passing of Deacon Jones, the Hall-of-Fame defensive end of the Los Angeles Rams, brought back several memories to my mind. Deacon Jones was a bookend of the legendary Rams defensive line from the 1960's known as the "Fearsome Foursome" (that also included Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Rosey Grier). Deacon actually coined the football term "sack" and probably had more quarterback sacks than anyone in NFL history, including modern-day players, had they kept such records back in the days when he played.
My introduction to professional football came on my 10th birthday. My father purchased us tickets to the first NFC vs. AFC Pro Bowl, Which would be played a few days later, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Which, in retrospect, was quite a feat for my father, who was a pastor and had to sandwich taking me to the afternoon football game in-between Church Services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening.
That Pro Bowl was historic, not that I knew it at the time, for the AFL had just merged into the NFL and it was their first all-star game. I wasn't overly impressed at the time. The game at the half-empty Coliseum was actually pretty boring, until the fourth quarter when Mel Renfro (Dallas Cowboys) took two punts back for touchdowns. In fact, the highlight of the game for me was the halftime show that featured Evel Knievel -- who was a bigger deal than the NFL in 1971 -- riding 100-yard wheelies, both sitting and standing on his motorcycle. Though I remember being kind of bummed that he didn't jump anything.
In spite of the lame game, I did become a Rams fan after meeting a very cool Jack Snow (Wide Receiver, '65-'75) and remained one until the day they moved to Saint Louis.
The "Fearsome Foursome" is now down to one... The Preacher, Rosey Grier. Lamar, Merlin, and now the Deacon are all gone. However, the memories I have -- of sport, childhood, my father and days gone by -- still remain. They live on, forever with me in the annals of my mind.