Jones, who passed away Friday at the age of 78, played for the Bears from 1954 through 1965 and was inducted into the Hall in 1991. If he is not as well remembered as other Bears legends, maybe it’s because he toiled for most of his career at the thankless position of offensive guard (he was only the fourth guard to be enshrined in Canton).
Jones’s resume includes seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1955 to 1961, but his chief claim to fame is that he was the first athlete in any major sport to make weight training a central part of his workout routine. Lifting transformed Jones from a 140-pound high schooler to the strongest man in the NFL.
“I'll tell you one thing, he could lift the side of a house,” said Bears defensive tackle Fred Williams. “He was one strong son of a gun.”
Before Jones came along and proved its value, weight training was considered to be useful only for bodybuilding per se, not as a strength-and-conditioning tool for athletes. “If I hadn't lifted weights,” Jones said, “I probably wouldn't have become a pro football player. It really helped me recover from the bruises after every game.” Jones never missed a game in high school, college, or the pro ranks—logging 22 years of football without a significant injury.
In 1962, the Bears were a little short on the defensive line, and their imaginative defensive coordinator George Allen asked Jones to help out. Jones played on both sides of the ball that year, and then played defense exclusively in 1963. Jones, at left tackle, was part of a front four that included Williams at right tackle and Doug Atkins and Ed O’Bradovich on the ends. Thanks in large part to this group, the Bears won the world championship.
When asked it was strange playing defense after so many years on offense, Jones asserted that he was actually quite comfortable. “On offense, you are limited,” he said. “You have more freedom on defense. You can dish it out for a change.”