Jones, Ed “Too Tall” 1951
Ed “Too Tall” Jones 1951–
Professional football player
Standing six-feet, nine-inches tall, defensive lineman Ed “Too Tall” Jones came by his nickname honestly. As a boy he dreamed of becoming a basketball player, and as an adult he spent a year pursuing a career in boxing. But Jones won acclaim for his role in the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line-up during the 1970s and 1980s, playing for a record 15 years. During the course of his career, he played in three Super Bowls and three Pro Bowls, recorded 57-1/2 sacks, and appeared in 224 games with 203 starts. “In his prime, Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones was known as a big hitter,” wrote John Chase in the Daily Herald. The “Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman struck fear in those lined up on the other side of the ball just seconds before he plowed them over on his way to the quarterback.”
Jones was born on February 23, 1951, in Jackson, Tennessee. In high school he played basketball and received 52 offers for college scholarships, but he decided to stay closer to home and play football for the Tennessee State Tigers. He soon discovered that he was a natural, and over the next three years he only played in one losing game. Jones also received his nickname at Tennessee State when a teammate, noting that his football pants were too short, told him he was “too tall for football.” His performance at Tennessee State caught the eye of the Dallas Cowboys’ recruiting staff, and in 1974 Jones became the number one pick in the NFL draft. “I heard rumors,” Jones would later recall to Jean-Jacques Taylor in the Dallas Morning News, “but I didn’t believe it because I was an underweight defensive lineman from a small school.” Jones also sang in a band at Tennessee State and helped book bands for college events.
Jones quickly found his place in Dallas’s line-up as part of the Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense.” During his first five years with Dallas, the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl three times, following the 1975, 1977, and 1978 seasons. The second time, Super Bowl XII against Denver, was the charm, with the Cowboy defense tying up the Broncos’ quarterback, leaving him little time to pass. “Rushing the passer was the key to it, as far as we were concerned,” Coach Tom Landry said in The Super Bowl. “We knew if we gave Craig [the Broncos’ quarterback] time, he could hurt us. So we wanted a big rush.” Jones, who played his part in the rush, would later recall Super Bowl XII as his best game. “It’s easy to say the Super Bowl,” he told Richard Durrett at the CowboysPlus Web site. “Just to be world champions is a good feeling.”
Jones shocked his coaches and teammates at the end of 1979 when he announced he would not be returning to Dallas the following season. “One year after his greatest season in football, after he had finally met the expectations that came with being the first player chosen in the 1974 National Football League draft,” wrote Malcolm Moran in the New York Times, “Ed Jones walked away from professional football.” He had dreamed of pursuing a career in boxing since childhood, and when his contract expired, he made his move. “I’m really glad we were winning, because I was on the football field doing the best I could,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News, “but my mind was in the ring.” He planned to build his career slowly, starting
Born on February 23, 1951, in Jackson, TN. Education: Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN, BS in Health and Physical Education, 1973.
Career: Dallas Cowboys, professional football player, 1974-78, 1980-89; professional boxer, 1979; Team Jones, Inc., Addison, TX, chief executive officer, c.1990-.
Awards: National Football League, Pro Bowl selection, 1981, 1982, 1983; named to All-Pro team by sports-writers, 1981, 1982; Dallas Cowboys, Most Valuable Player, 1982; Ed Block Courage Award, 1989.
Addresses: Office —Team Jones, Inc., P.M.B. 282-14232 Marsh Lane, Addison, TX 75001,
with minor fights and working his way into the heavyweight category over time. While writers openly wondered if Jones had what it took to be a world-class champion, he won his first six fights.
By the year’s end, however, Jones had re-entered negotiations with Dallas, and planned to return during the 1980 season. “After fighting a year, I experienced a lot of personal problems and some family problems,” he told the New York Times. “I took some time off to think, and now football is the No. 1 thing on my mind.” Jones also played a small role in the movie The Double McGuffin (1979) and appeared in an episode of the television series Diff’rent Strokes (1978).
Jones quickly reinserted himself into the Dallas line-up in the 1980 and 1981 seasons, playing in 16 games both years. By the 1982 season, he also began to develop a reputation as a fierce opponent to the quarterbacks he sacked with increasing regularity. He reached his record high in 1985, sacking the opposition’s quarterback 13 times. He was named All Pro in 1981-82, played in the Pro Bowl three times, and was named Most Valuable Player in 1982. Although Dallas failed to compete in the Super Bowl between 1980 and 1989, the team entered the playoffs five times.
Jones retired in 1989 after a record number of years in the NFL, attributing his longevity to his training as a boxer. “The game of football is very mentally and physically demanding on your body,” he told the NFL Players Web site. “I wouldn’t have been in the mental state of mind to play 15 years if I hadn’t boxed.” Even following retirement, he continued to be an avid Dallas supporter. “He remains a Cowboy through and through,” wrote Chris Stevenson in the Ottawa Sun. “When asked who he thought would be in the Super Bowl this year, he replied: ‘You mean other than Dallas, who will be in it?’” After his departure from Dallas, Jones went into business for himself, running Team Jones, Inc., an organization that booked entertainers for corporate events. “I’ve been involved in the music business since high school,” he told Taylor. He also learned to love another sport, golf. “I’ve worked hard all my life,” Jones told Taylor. “I’ve discovered that being on the golf course for five or six hours is the only place where my mind is truly relaxed.” In 1998, he joined a number of other athlete-celebrities for a high-profile game of golf sponsored by Athletes Against Drugs. In 2002, he also lent his support to the Shoe Carnival, a store that offered athletic shoes at a discount price. “I…do it because they promote the Boys and Girls Club, a charity I’ve always supported since I first broke into the league in 1974,” he told Christopher Mapp in the Hattiesburg American Online Web site. “And it gives me a chance to interact with the fans, who supported me for 15 years.”
Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 27, 1998. p. 5.
Dallas Morning News, April 29, 2004.
New York Times, July 9, 1980, p. D18.
New York Times, September 8, 1980, p. C4.
Ottawa Sun, July 11, 2002.
“Ed Too Tall’ Jones: ‘Everything About Dallas Was Fun,’” Cowboys Plus, www.cowboysplus.com (May 13, 2004).
“Former Cowboys Star Still Stands Tall,” Hattiesburg American Online, hattiesburgamerican.com (May 13, 2004).
Team Jones, Inc., www.teamjonesinc.com (June 29, 2004).
“Where Are They Now,” NFL Players, www.nflplayers.com (May 13, 2004).
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
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