There is a wide difference between true courage and a mere contempt of life.
- Cato the Elder, Roman Patriot and Statesman (B.C. 234-149)
Today the NFL and the sports world as a whole lost one of the all-time greats. Deacon Jones passed away here in Orange County, California at the age of seventy-four.
Deacon Jones was one bade dude, and I say that with all the respect in the world. Deacon may have struck more fear into the hearts of quarterbacks than any other man who ever lined up on defense, and he would make just about anybody’s short list of greatest defensive players in NFL history. He invented the term “sack”, as in sacking the quarterback and while the NFL didn’t officially start counting sacks as a statistic until 1982, it’s said that if the old films were to be gone over, Deacon Jones would hold the record by a large margin as the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks.
(Hey NFL, it would be pocket change for you to hire retired officials to go year by year over all the film from all the games and give credit where credit is due to all the defensive players who played in the years before 1982.)
In honor of the man, today I pulled off the bookshelf The Book of Deacon. It’s a great little gem of a book compiled by John Klawitter that has the wit and wisdom of Deacon Jones. It was too hard to narrow it down to a top ten list, I’m hoping with the plug, this list will still constitute “fair use”. This is just a small sampling and the book is well worth the purchase.
#25 – There are all kinds of smiles. On the football field I mostly used the one where the hawk spots the dove. – Deacon Jones, when kidded about never showing a sunny disposition during the game. (See photo.)
#24 – You hear all this stuff about inner peace. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I say, hit that line hard. Crack that book . . . Do your very best all the time and inner peace will take care of itself. The Deacon guarantees it. – Deacon Jones on the relative value of hard work versus meditation.
#23 – When it comes to your life’s work, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Even Jesus had an occasional joke with the boys, take walking on water, for instance . . . but there’s a time and place for fun. Jesus never faltered when it came time to tip over the money stalls or to take his hard walk up the mountain. – Deacon Jones on taking yourself seriously.
#22 – If you feel like you want to die, it’s time to sit down and make a list of all the things you haven’t done yet. – Deacon Jones talking about despair.
#21 – I believe that if you die trying to be your best, the world is still a better place.
#20 – I reserve the right to change my mind. But once I decide on something, I’m going to need a good reason to switch. – Deacon Jones on setting a course.
#19 – I did come up with the term “sack” to describe the devastation I was bringing on the poor, cringing quarterbacks in the NFL. “Sack the quarterback.” That was nice. I thought it was lots better than saying, “Jones tackles the QB behind the line for another loss of yardage . . . ” It had a ring to it, and it caught on with the sports writers. But I tell you, doing it was a lot more fun than talking about it.
#18 – When I flew from Orlando to Los Angeles in 1960, I sat next to a guy from Disney who was paying 75¢ an acre for land. I thought he was some special kind of fool . . . and since they built the park, history has proven there was a fool sitting in one of our seats.
#17 – First, you’ve got to get the job. “Yeah, I can do it,” I would say. When I was a kid, I could do anything. Lucky nobody ever asked me if I could fly a jet plane.
#16 – Know the difference between famous and great. – Deacon Jones, chiding a novice sportswriter who called him a famous football player.
#15 – When I was a teenager, I was so dumb my mamma knocked me off the porch with a broom. You wish you had so good a mamma. – Deacon Jones on a parental discipline.
#14 – Somebody told me when Abe Lincoln was a young man, studying by firelight, he said, “I will work hard. I will prepare myself. And my time will come.” And you know, that’s exactly what I said about myself and football . . . What do you think? Were Abe and I both just lucky ducks?
#13 – How can you possibly be sympathetic to every fool on the planet? Just the other day, I heard a man whining about his hopeless love of cross-dressing. Call me unenlightened, but I started to laugh. – Deacon Jones on his own impatience with political correctness.
#12 – I never was very big on praying for victory. For God to give a big win to the Denver Broncos, wouldn’t He have to take it away from somebody else, say, the Green Bay Packers?
#11 – And so now you think society is to blame for the mess you made of yourself? – Deacon Jones on whiners.
#10 – The only thing Native Americans ever did better than the rest of us is spirituality. Of course, that’s everything, isn’t it?
#9 – A nation that spends billions to fix international problems will not have much left over for the victims of tornadoes in Oklahoma.
#8 – You are one of a kind, one in a billion, an incredible unique individual. The problem is, so is everybody else.
#7 – It took me a long time to figure out that real big-time success comes from taking lots of small, ordinary steps in the right direction. And you can’t ever take the next step until you take the first.
#6 – You’ll find your life greatly simplified if you only worry about stuff you can fix.
#5 – Be patient with the negative people of the world. Take a moment to think how they are helping you clarify your own thinking and firming your own resolve. Then headslap them out of your way.
#4 – The problem a guy who lies all the time faces is he never can tell when anybody else is telling the truth.
#3 – The only rules not meant to be broken are those of love and virtue.
#2 – Memory is what you did. Life is what you’re doing.
#1 – All men are created equal. After that, it’s up to you.