Ed 'Too Tall' Jones: Why did NFL great launch boxing career?
During the 1979 holiday season, Dallas Cowboys fans had a dual preoccupation.
Not only were they immersed in Cowboys' (American) football and the NFC playoff chase, they watched with extreme curiosity as a new boxer launched his pro career.
But this was no ordinary boxer.
At 6'9" (206cm), he had been an outstanding basketball player in high school who earned All-American honors and received scholarship offers from top colleges. He was also a standout first baseman and had attained the interest of several pro teams as a teenager.
Given his height, basketball seemed the most logical fit so the highly-decorated athlete enrolled at Tennessee State University and joined their hoops team. But his stint as a basketball player would last only two seasons. Unfulfilled by basketball, he instead turned his sights to football and quickly became a starter on Tennessee State's pigskin squad.
The rest is history. Well, almost...
Top Draft Pick
As a defensive lineman, he became a two-time All-American and was selected by the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) as the first overall draft choice in 1974.
Headlong into Doomsday
Having found what appeared to be his ultimate calling, Jones quickly became a core component of the Cowboys' vaunted, nationally-renowned "Doomsday Defense"- the nucleus of Cowboy football in the mid to late 1970s. The "Doomsday Defense" would eventually lead "America's Team" to championship glory as the Cowboys crushed the Broncos in Super Bowl XII in January 1978.
The Cowboys were 'back in the saddle' again and their 28 year old defensive end had already become one of the most dominant defensive football players of his era and a mainstream superstar.
The following year the Cowboys would return to the Super Bowl but lose a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unbeknownst to most Cowboy fans, the team would also lose one of its most prized possessions in the off-season. Having fulfilled his contractual obligation to the Cowboys, the rising star who seemed a perfect fit for the team decided to relinquish his beautiful blue Cowboy helmet donning the famed 'Lone Star' in exchange for a pair of run-of-the-mill red boxing gloves sporting a generic, uninspiring 'Everlast' insignia.
In June 1979, he officially announced he was leaving the Cowboys to become a full time boxer, much to the chagrin of Cowboys head coach Tom Landry who had hoped a sizable salary adjustment would keep in him in Dallas. However, no pot of gold could have kept him from boxing.
What prompts a football star who is in the prime of his career and part of the nucleus of one the world's most popular sports franchises to drop everything to become a pro boxer?
It's a mystery. But what isn't inexplicable, if not all too obvious, is why that athlete would eventually return to football.
For the Love of Boxing
Ed 'Too Tall' Jones is best-known for playing 15 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and was dominant in every athletic endeavor he pursued sans one.
"It wasn't that I had boxing idols like Liston and Louis and Patterson," he says, "but that every boxer was my idol.... Do you have any idea what it feels like to do the one thing you've always wanted to do? Boxing was the best thing that ever happened to Ed Jones." (Source: Sports Illustrated )
Jones' fascination with boxing was nothing new. Even as a child, he loved boxing.
Pro Debut and Boxing Career
On November3, 1979 Jones made his pro debut on the broadcasting giant CBS who had purchased the television rights for $27,000 USD. Fighting at 255½ lbs, Jones enjoyed a 51½ lb weight advantage when he stepped in the ring with Abraham Meneses (then 5-6) who was only 6'2. Given his size advantage, athleticism and "Doomsday" pedigree most at ringside expected a one-sided domination.
It didn't happen.
Jones barely managed to pound out a majority decision and was roughed-up and even pushed to the canvas in the process.
Despite the disappointment, Jones would fight five more times between November 13, 1979 and January 26, 1980, winning each fight via a stoppage over not-so-imposing opposition.
Perhaps Jones' most impressive win was his first knockout over Fernando Montes who sported a somewhat respectable record of 18-12-1 (11 KOs). But despite the victory, Jones failed to impress the boxing world in ensuing bouts against club fighters with losing records. He more resembled a "decent" beginner than a dominant, polished pro. Consensus was Jones was far too dominant in football to look ordinary against lowly-regarded opposition in boxing.
A return to the Dallas Cowboys was imminent.
Return to Football
Much to the delight of Head Coach Landry and Cowboys fans, the eventual football legend would abandon his pugilistic endeavors and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys in the summer of 1980. Looking back, some critics argue that he returned from boxing a better football player. He would play ten more seasons - all for the Cowboys - and earn All-Pro honors in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Jones' foray into boxing can be viewed as a success and failure.
He fought professionally on national television and went undefeated in six bouts, scoring knockouts in every fight but his debut. But unlike his ventures in football, basketball and baseball, he failed to overwhelm or even impress. And given the level of competition he faced, it was quite evident a title shot against then-heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was not in Jones' immediate future.
'Too Tall' doesn't discuss his reasons for returning to the Cowboys. Some insiders will surmise he got whopped in sparring while others will maintain it was a business decision.
"Too Tall" Today
Although his playing days are long over, Jones isn't far removed from public consciousness. He stays very active by playing in celebrity golf tournaments, making personal appearances and holding speaking engagements. He can also be found in the 2010 Geico television advertisements.
On December 24th, 2011, the then 60 year old Jones spoke to 25 young men in the Enlightened Males mentoring club in Jackson, Tennessee. The group is affiliated with members of the African-American national fraternity Omega Psi Phi. As the group's guest speaker, the former Dallas Cowboy stressed the importance of perseverance and learning about manhood from men who have had that experience.
"My father told me that you can be whatever you want to be," Jones said to the young men in attendance. "But he told me you have to work for it. He said you have to want it."
(Source: Jackson Sun )
So what would prompt a wealthy, accomplished football star who's in the prime of his career to rebuke so-called conventional wisdom and a mountain of naysayers to leave the cushy confines of the Dallas Cowboys for entry into the violent, unforgiving world of professional boxing?
After 39 years, we finally have the answer.... His father's wise words and the courage to pursue a lifelong a dream.
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