In his day, Deacon Jones struck the most fear in the hearts of the NFL quarterbacks he was paid to bring to the turf in any way possible. So it is fitting that Jones now has an NFL award named after him.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis is the winner of the inaugural Deacon Jones Award, given annually to the NFL leader in quarterback sacks.
Mathis, a Pro Bowl selection at outside linebacker, led the league with 19.5 sacks, helping the Colts to an 11-5 record and the AFC South championship.
“Deacon Jones is the creator of the sack, so to be able to win the first award in his honor is an honor,” said Mathis, whose accomplishments will be recognized as part of NFL Honors, the NFL’s prime-time awards show on FOX at 8 p.m. ET on Feb. 1. “I’m very proud that I was able to win it and I thank my teammates, mainly the d-line, who were very instrumental in helping me get to the quarterback. It’s a unit award, more so than an individual award.”
The Deacon Jones Award was created this year to permanently honor the legacy of Deacon Jones. Jones died on June 3, 2013 at the age of 74.
“Deacon Jones was an icon among icons,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Even with his fellow Hall of Famers, Deacon Jones held a special status. He was a hard-charging football player and the original sack artist who coined the term. This award will ensure that players, coaches, fans and the media will remember the impact that Deacon had on all of us and know that he represents unique qualities deserving of this honor.”
Jones played defensive end from 1961-74 with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.