Though color commentators speculated that Jones' one-season hiatus to pursue a career in professional boxing would have a negative impact on his game, the giant end had different ideas. Not only was he in the best physical condition he had ever been in, a year of dodging punches had made his already quick reflexes that much quicker. He was a monster. He batted down 86 passes in his last nine seasons (the statistic wasn't kept before that) and racked up 106 bone-crushing sacks. On top of that, the proud owner of two Super Bowl rings ('75 and '77) still holds Cowboy records for games played (224) and starts (203) over his impressive 14-season career, making him one of football's undisputed iron men.
The Jackson, Tennessee, native returns to the Mid-South on Thursday, September 13th, to host the Ed "Too Tall" Jones Golf Classic at Grand Casino in Tunica. In a telephone interview from his home in Dallas, Jones chatted at length about football, boxing, and, most importantly, why he isn't in the Hall of Fame.
Flyer: I know you live in Dallas, but do you still have a lot of ties to the Mid-South?
Too Tall: I love Tennessee. But Dallas is a great place to play football and it's hard to get away. Most of the players who play here make Dallas their home. I probably only get back to Jackson about four times a year. I have a brother there who is a partner of mine, and I'll always have a home there. It's important to me. I have five sisters, all of them educators, and that's amazing. I think it's important for kids to know that you can be a success at whatever it is you want to do, and it doesn't matter where you came from.
From the era of the big Dallas/Pittsburgh rivalry there must be twice as many Steelers in the Hall of Fame as there are Cowboys. So why in the world aren't you in the Hall of Fame?
Well, you may have noticed that it somehow takes Cowboys a lot longer to be inducted. I think it has a lot to do with the selection committee. Most of them are from the East Coast, so they grew up hating us. I mean they respected us, but they really hated us. There are so many people who should be there but aren't. Look at Mel Renfro, the man regarded as the best defensive back ever. He was also the best punt returner. He dominated. And look at Bob Hayes. He's the reason teams play zone defense today. On the other hand, you have [Steeler] Lynn Swann who is in the Hall of Fame. Now Lynn is known for two acrobatic catches in the Super Bowl. Two catches. What else? Now I know Lynn and I would tell him this to his face. He only played eight seasons. He doesn't have the seasons, and he doesn't have the catches [to be in the Hall of Fame]. Anyone who has ever played would give anything to be there, but there is really nothing you can do about it. And there's no need to worry. All the guys who should be there will get there eventually.
So which is the more brutal sport, football or boxing?
Oh, football definitely. I never really got hurt boxing. [Playing football], sometimes I'd feel like I'd been run over by a train and six boxcars. And you've got to be able to play with injury. I've played with dislocated shoulders, broken ribs, hyperextended knees. But from a leadership perspective, it was important for me to be on the field, to suck it up and say, "I can do anything for three hours." Now training for boxing was the toughest thing I've ever done in my life: run six miles a day, work to develop long, lean muscles. It's a full-time job and it's a lonesome, lonesome world.
The sportswriters were unkind when you switched to boxing. They called your bouts a freakshow. But you went undefeated. So why did you give it up?
There have been a lot of stories printed about why I left boxing and none of them is true. I left for a reason. One of these days I'm going to tell the real story, but I'm not ready to do that just yet. Boxing was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. And doing something like that takes guts. I just didn't want to be 40 or 50 and say that I hadn't at least tried. The year I spent boxing was like getting an elephant off my back, and in spite of what everybody said, when I came back to football I had an all-pro year. I fooled them all. People thought I was even faster than before, but my 40 time was the same. Training on the speed bag and sparring made my reaction time quicker, so I just looked faster.
What are your thoughts on the Southern Heritage Classic?
Well, I'm just glad to play a small role in such a class event. The course at the Grand is a great place to play and the proceeds raised [by the Ed "Too Tall" Jones Golf Classic] benefit the Junior Golf Association, which gives kids the opportunity to play golf who might not have been able to afford it otherwise. It gives them something to do and keeps them off the street.