Ed Jones is on the short list of the NFL’s most dominant defensive players of the 1970s, the best era for defensive nicknames of any decade in league history.
Minnesota had the Purple People Eaters. Pittsburgh played behind the famed Steel Curtain. In Miami, it was the No Name Defense.
Then there was the Doomsday defense in Dallas, anchored by a disruptive defensive line of Randy White, Harvey Martin, Jethro Pugh and Jones, the Cowboys’ 6-foot-9-inch defensive end nicknamed “Too Tall.”
Jones was unlike any player of his or any other era — name another 6-9 defensive end — and played at a time when the Cowboys truly embodied the moniker of America’s Team. Nowadays, the 62-year-old Jones is still every bit of 6-9 and hasn’t appeared to age one bit, though it’s been nearly 24 years since the owner of 117 career sacks played his 224th and final NFL game.
He is in town for Saturday’s annual NFL Alumni Austin Chapter Golf Tournament, which is benefiting the Center for Child Protection, Travis County’s Children’s Advocacy Center. In between charitable appearances, the Dallas-based Jones heads Team Jones Inc., a company that deals in corporate planning, promotions, bookings, and event management.
The son of a blues musician, Jones dabbled in music promotion while a student at Tennessee State and was actively involved in the music industry during his professional career, co-promoting several concerts. After retiring in 1989, he continued to grow his company but didn’t return to national television until a GEICO commercial three years ago, set up by an advertising exec in Virginia who just happened to be a longtime Cowboys fan.
It’s been nearly 30 years since famed Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt pulled off the deal that sent Tody Smith (Bubba’s brother) and Billy Parks to the Houston Oilers for the rights to their first pick in the 1974 draft. The Oilers went 1-13 that year, giving the Cowboys the first overall pick. They took Jones.
The converted tight end didn’t expect to last long in the league, because his height made his long legs an easy target. It was part of the reason he aspired to other pursuits, one of which shocked the football world.
After his first five seasons, Jones left the NFL and his $185,000 annual salary to become a professional boxer after the Cowboys fell to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.
“After my third year, I told (Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm) to prepare for the draft because I was going to play out my contract,” Jones said. “They didn’t take me seriously until my fourth year, when they called me and said they haven’t heard from my representative. I played the fifth year, then left.”
His boxing career lasted all of six fights (all wins), and while Jones grossed a reported $225,000 in the ring, he decided a return to football was best for his future.
He played another 10 seasons and turned in a career worthy of the team’s Ring of Honor, of which he is surprisingly not a member. He isn’t one to toot his own horn, but did wonder Friday why players like Cornell Green haven’t been honored with induction.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is the first and last word on who gets in, by the way.
“You should have a committee to vote on it,” he said. “How can you be in Arkansas in the oil and gas business, and know who meant what to the Cowboys in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s?”
In his spare time, Jones travels to all the big boxing matches in Vegas. A single father of a daughter who lives in Arlington said he also gets to three or four Cowboys games a year. The final game played at old Texas Stadium — a 33-24 loss to Baltimore that was marred by Dallas’ defense giving up back-to-back runs touchdown runs of 77-plus yards in the fourth quarter — still sticks in his craw.
Jones and other Cowboys legends were in the tunnel that night preparing to be honored in a postgame ceremony. Then the epic collapse happened.
“One minute we were celebrating, and the next minute we were hitting the walls,” he recalled. “We couldn’t believe it.”
He admits that the team’s struggles over the years once cut him to the core, but in recent years, he has he put his health ahead of his passion for the ‘Boys.
“Dallas used to hurt me every time they lost,” Jones said. “I couldn’t sleep. I finally decided that when the season starts now, I just hope for the best and expect the worst. Now I’m at peace.”