Homer Jones, one of the best receivers in New York Giants history and one of the fastest players in professional football history, died Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Texas. he was 82 years old.
His daughter, LaCarole Jones-Nickleberry, said at the hospital that the cause of his death was lung cancer.
Due primarily to knee problems, Jones’ career was short, seven seasons, including the last season he played primarily as a kick returner for the Cleveland Browns. But playing for the mediocre Giants team from 1965 to 1969, he was one of the most feared pass catchers in the National Football League.
Jones didn’t always have a solid hand, but he was a big-play specialist, with more than half of his 36 career touchdowns coming in at least 50 yards, including at least 70 of them. 10 were included. In 1966, he received the bomb from quarterback Earl Morrall for 98 yards, the longest by a Giants player until Victor Cruz made a 99-yard shot in 2011.
In Jones’ career, he averaged 22.3 yards per catch, which remains the all-time record for a receiver to catch at least 200 passes more than 50 years later.
At 6-foot-2 and weighing 225 pounds, he was big enough to break through tackles and surprisingly fast.
A world-class sprinter who once ran 100 yards in 9.3 seconds, Jones played for the Dallas Cowboys and was a contemporary of Olympic champion Bob Hayes, known as “the fastest man in the world.” A common debate within the league was who was faster. Many thought Jones was bigger and stronger on the football pad.
At one point, it was reported that a race between the two men was planned for the 1968 Pro Bowl, with the winner being awarded $20,000. However, the game was called off after Giants owner Wellington Mara paid Jones not to participate, fearing he would undercut a valuable receiver injury and opportunity.
Hayes and Jones pushed the NFL to make significant changes in strategy as the passing game became more important and the offense gave the edge to the beefier quarterbacks and speed demons pass catchers. A defense that lacked cornerbacks and safety that could run with players like Hayes and Jones shifted away from man-to-man and into zone cover.
But Jones single-handedly influenced the future of football in ways that are more recognizable to casual fans.
He told himself that when he caught the first touchdown pass, he would express his joy by throwing a soccer ball into the stands in the fashion of the day. His chance came on October 17, 1965, against the Philadelphia Eagles at Yankee Stadium, where he scored on an 89-yard pass play. The problem was that the league banned the conduct and threatened to fine players who violated the order.
Instead, after crossing the goal line, Jones threw the football hard toward the grass, performing what is widely believed to be the original end zone “spike.” The term was coined by Jones himself, now 68, and ushered in his time. Years passed and the end zone celebrations got even more elaborate.
Homer Carroll Jones was born on February 18, 1941 in Pittsburgh, a small town east of Dallas, the son of steel worker Hose Jones and schoolteacher Beulah (Aldridge) Jones. As a young man, he was more interested in music than sports, playing saxophone in his high school marching band for two years before venturing into football as a senior.
At Texas Southern University, he was active in track and field as well as football, where he was a linebacker, running back, and flanker. He injured his knee in one of his last games, which adversely affected his draft potential, but he was still drafted in the 5th round in 1963 by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League and the 20th round. was named by the Giants. (The AFL and he NFL merged before his 1970 season. Currently, the draft is limited to his seven rounds.)
Jones chose the Oilers, but was injured when he hurt his knee in training camp. The Giants then took Jones to New York to arrange surgical repair of his knee and waited over a full season for Jones to regain his health and strength. He appeared in three games for the Giants in late 1964. The following season, he was the starting receiver, catching just 29 passes but averaging a staggering 27.3 yards per catch.
The Giants went 7-7 in 1965, but Jones never played on a winning Giants team. In 1966, he tallied eight touchdowns and garnered over 1,000 yards as a receiver for the first time in three straight seasons, but the Giants went 1-12-1. That winter, New York acquired star quarterback and future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in a trade to the Minnesota Vikings. I quickly realized that it was a unique weapon.
“He’s like a guy on a motorcycle waving a net high in the air,” Tarkenton said at the time.
With Tarkenton pitching, Jones had two of his best seasons in 1967 and 1968. His 13 touchdowns in 1967 were the highest of all receivers in the NFL. He added seven more in his 1968. He also appeared in the league’s annual All-Star Game, the Pro Bowl, both seasons. It would be nearly 40 years before another Giants wide receiver was selected for the game.
Jones’ deteriorating knee ended his Giants career after the 1969 season. He was traded to the Browns for running back Ron Johnson, who became a heavyweight for the Giants in the early 1970s.
After his active career, Jones returned to Pittsburgh and worked for the steel company for 20 years.
He has been married three times. In addition to Nickleberry, his survivors also include two daughters, Erica Sanders and Mercy Bell. son, Charles Dumas. his sister Patricia Bolton; and several grandchildren.
Of course, he also saved his life with spikes, but he seemed to regret it. In a 2012 interview, he said he had watched Endzone demonstrations with discontent over the years, saying that if he knew what his actions would entail, he would think twice. He said he would.
“It caused so many things – it was obscene and confusing,” he said. “I wish I hadn’t started.”
Alex Traub contributed to the report.