As the clock ticked down for the end of 2014, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston got something he’ll put to good use in his contract talks of 2015. The Pro Bowl linebacker, whose rookie contract is up, won the Deacon Jones Award, given out annually to the player that leads the NFL in quarterback sacks.
“I’m very honored and humbled to earn this award named after one of the greatest defensive players and sack masters of all time,” said Houston, whose accomplishments will be recognized as part of NFL Honors, the NFL’s primetime awards show on NBC at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday night, January 31.
“I’d like to thank my teammates, coaches and our fan base,” Houston continued. “They rallied behind us all season long and helped fuel our pass rush. To have my name mentioned in the same sentence as a player like Deacon Jones is truly a blessing.”
Houston, a two-time Pro Bowl selection at outside linebacker, led the league with 22 sacks in 2014, tied for the second-most in a season since the statistic was officially instituted in 1982.
Only former New York Giant, Michael Strahan, had more sacks in a single season, getting 22.5 sacks in 2001. Of course, Houston didn’t have Brett Favre around to take a dive for a record-breaking stat (look it up on Google, kids) so it is an even more impressive feat for Houston.
Houston sacked San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers four times in last Sunday’s 19-7 win, which also helped Houston break Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas’ club record of 20 sacks, set in 1990.
The Deacon Jones Award was created by the NFL in 2013 to permanently honor the legacy of Jones, arguably one of the greatest defensive ends to ever lace up a pair of football cleats. Not only did he revolutionize the position, he is credited with coining the phrase “quarterback sack” when he was terrorizing offenses in the 1960s as a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ legendary “Fearsome Foursome”.
Because the sack was not recognized as an official stat until 1982, there was questions as to how effective Jones really was at getting to the quarterback during his career. A case of hype versus reality. Researchers have estimated that Jones ended his career with 173-1/2 sacks, which would still rank him as #3 all-time behind fellow Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198).
Jones was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and was ranked #13 in The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Jones died on June 3, 2013 at the age of 74.