Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones was an accomplished player for the Dallas Cowboys in the ‘70s and ‘80s. One All-Pro, three Pro-Bowls and a Super Bowl ring from the 1977 season are the headliners of Jones’ NFL resume.
For most people, a career like that would be the most intriguing thing about them. But for Too Tall, those accolades are afterthoughts.
Jones’ life had many twists and turns that inexplicably led to him to become one of the greatest Cowboys defensive players of all-time. Here’s how it all pieced together and once you’re finished reading, you’ll learn it’s a story even Hollywood would say is too far-fetched.
Too Tall’s early life
Jones was born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1951. From a young age, he took an interest in sports. At Merry High School, he played baseball and basketball, but was the most passionate about boxing during his time after classes and practices. As for football, Merry didn’t have a team until his senior year and Jones only played in three games.
After Jones scored a victory by knockout in his senior year, it made headlines in the newspaper. Too Tall’s basketball coach caught wind of it and gave Jones an ultimatum: basketball or boxing. Jones realized sticking with hoops would earn him a college scholarship, so he got rid of the boxing shoes and kept the high tops. He also had the option to sign a minor league contract with some baseball teams.
Too Tall would bring his talents (and 6’9 frame) to Tennessee State on a basketball scholarship. But after two seasons of fighting for minutes off the bench, Jones dropped basketball and picked up the pigskin again. He was a raw talent at first, but he was a gifted athlete and a physical presence on the defensive line, which helped him learn quickly. By the end of his college career, Jones was a two-time All-American and a two-time Black College Football National Champion. He only lost two games in his collegiate career.
With 12 sacks his senior year, Too Tall caught the eyes of every NFL scout. Nobody had ever seen a pass rusher with his combination of size and speed.
Jones set milestones, even at draft night
The Cowboys selected Jones with the first pick of the 1974 NFL Draft. By doing so, Jones became the first player drafted first overall from a Historically Black College or University. He was also the first player Dallas drafted with pick one in round one.
Jones didn’t start a single game his rookie year, but still managed to sack the QB six times. That season, he got his snaps as the right defensive end, which is predominantly the pass rushing end.
But in year two, legendary coach Tom Landry moved Too Tall to the left side defensive end spot to help stifle opposing rushers. While Jones wasn’t happy about it, you don’t say no to Tom Landry. But this ended up working out, as Jones stayed at the LDE position for the rest of his career and he still racked up 106 sacks, the fourth-most in Cowboys history.
Stepping back in the ring
After five seasons, with a Super Bowl victory on his resume and still relatively early in his career at 28-years-old, Too Tall retired from football after the 1978 season to pursue a boxing career. This perplexed the Cowboys, who were fresh off a Super Bowl loss and already gameplanning for next season.
When player personnel chief Gil Brandt got the news, he thought it must’ve been about money. In reality, Too Tall just wanted to attempt a boxing career before it was too late. But in the end, Dallas understood and supported the move. The Cowboys even sent Jones a sweatsuit and training gear with the Cowboys star on it.
But the support didn’t stop there. Too Tall’s first televised fight took place in New York on the same weekend Dallas was in town to face the Giants. So the team flew in early to attend Jones’ fight.
In total, Too Tall finished with a 6-0 record with five wins coming by knockout.
Back to the football field
After a short boxing career that only forced Jones to miss one season, he felt content with what he accomplished as a fighter and traded his gloves back for cleats and shoulder pads. Luckily, Dallas welcomed Jones back with open arms. Landry even said Too Tall was in better condition when he returned in 1980. The running he did as a boxer improved his stamina. The hand-eye coordination exercises helped him develop quicker reflexes. He was more motivated to perfect his craft and watched a lot more film in his return.
Jones played 10 more seasons after his second stint with the Cowboys, earning his only All-Pro selection and three consecutive Pro-Bowls in that time. He also never missed a game throughout his 15-year career. Which is equally as impressive as the accolades.
Things didn’t slow down in retirement
If you haven’t learned by now, Too Tall is an active guy, always looking for the next exciting venture. After his football days, that included making movie cameos, appearing as himself in the Simpson’s and Married…With Children, and starring in a once-popular Geico commercial.
Even toward the end of his playing days, Too Tall was always doing something on the side. He was a guest referee at WrestleMania 1986 and released a disco album that wasn’t as successful as his other ventures.
Jones’ life story could easily be confused as an elaborate Mad Lib. But even then, the author of it would think ‘this is just ridiculous’.