What’s in a Name?

02/13/2006

The Hall of Fame’s “Other Jones”

One of the Hall of Fame’s best-known and most energetic enshrinees is Deacon Jones, who gained football fame as a dominant defensive end with the Los Angeles Rams.  An unheralded 14th-round draft pick in 1961, Jones knew he needed to do something to separate him from the other training camp invitees. The first thing he did was put aside his given name “David” and substitute “Deacon.”

“No one would remember a player named David Jones – there are a thousand David Joneses in the phone book,” Deacon explained.

Whether it was his new name, or more likely his raw talent, Rams coaches definitely took note of “Deacon.” More importantly, however, opposing coaches, players, and fans, never forgot him.

There is another Hall of Fame story, however, that lends credence to Deacon’s “Jones theory.” That’s the story of the Hall of Fame’s other Jones, former Chicago Bears guard/defensive tackle, Stan Jones.

Although Stan Jones was one of the best in the business during his 13 NFL seasons, he was hardly a household name. An All-America at the University of Maryland, Jones was first- or second-team All-NFL in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, and 1961, and selected to play in seven consecutive Pro Bowls, 1956-1962. Surprisingly, despite his outstanding credentials, this Jones waited nearly two decades before being elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I hadn’t played for so long I had to do some research on myself,” he joked in 1991 when he learned of his election. “I was surprised at some of the things I found.”

What Jones and the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors found was a long record of outstanding accomplishments that began in 1953 when he was the future draft choice of the Bears. Stan played for Chicago for 12 seasons (1954-1965) and one final season for the Washington Redskins in 1966.

A starter as a rookie, Jones first played tackle, but in his sophomore season shifted to left guard, where he stayed for the next eight seasons. During that period, he established himself as one of the premier players at possibly the most obscure position. That may have been Stan’s double curse - playing guard and having the name “Jones.”

“No one seems to know what the guards are doing,” Stan offered. “They don’t keep a record of your blocks.”

Jones, however, was well known by his teammates and opponents alike for his tremendous strength. An avid weightlifter since his high school football days, he is generally considered the first NFL player of note to embrace a weightlifting program. Weightlifting was not in vogue in the 1950s and many cautioned Stan that to do so might cost him his mobility. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

“If I hadn’t lifted weights,” he insisted, “I probably wouldn’t have become a pro football player.”

Jones credits his weightlifting program – a program eventually adopted by several of his contemporaries – for his record of never having missed a game because of injury in 22 years of organized football.

 

In fact, in 1962, the Bears, in need of reinforcements on the defensive line, felt they could use Stan’s strength and talent on the defensive side of the line. That year Jones unselfishly split time on the offensive and defensive lines.

He performed so well on defense that in 1963, he became a fulltime starter at defensive tackle.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” said Fred Williams, who played along side Jones in later years, “he could lift the side of a house. He was one strong son of a gun.”

Talented, strong, versatile, and a team leader, these are qualities that certainly contributed to his eventual Hall of Fame election. Still, even now Jones lacks the notoriety such an outstanding career should guarantee. Although his bronzed likeness is in the Hall of Fame along with Deacon Jones and 233 other football immortals, one can only wonder if he might be even better known had he just chosen a nickname. “Casey” has a nice ring to it.

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