Smith, who has an NFL record 200 sacks in his career including 171 with Buffalo, never studied Jones on film, but did seek counsel from the Hall of Fame defensive lineman when he felt his sack production was suffering.
“Deacon and I became very close friends during my days with the Buffalo Bills,” said Smith in an interview with NFL AM. “I had an opportunity to befriend Deacon and there were some low points or times in my career where I was missing a lot of sacks and I would give Deacon a call and just pick his brain because that’s the type of person Deacon was.
“He was receptive and always willing to give advice and critique. Those were the things I appreciated about Deacon the most. I’m just in a great deal of shock that we’ve lost not only a legend, but a legendary person.”
Smith is one that cognizant of the men who came before him in the game. There was no mistaking the stalwart that Jones was among the game’s greats, which in Smith’s words went beyond the playing field.
“Just his personality of being a defensive lineman and his charisma and his presence,” said Smith. “When he walked into the room he commanded respect whether it was what he did on the field or in his words. This is going to be a great loss for a football nation, the fans and particularly for those who loved them dearly like myself.”
Jones, whose career was over before the sack statistic was kept by the league, has long been the subject of debates on where he would rank all-time among defensive ends. Smith provided his opinion.
“Deacon is right up there. I think there are about three guys you put in a hat and you just pick a name out and those three guys would certainly be Deacon, Reggie White and myself at the defensive end position,” said Smith. “Certainly the rules were of a different nature when Deacon played. Deacon played with Merlin Olsen and a number of other defensive linemen that were extremely talented. Reggie also had an extremely talented defensive line.
“I really believe that you take those three names and put them in a hat and just pick one and feel comfortable with it, and then you can go on with the debate as to who had more help, who had the better defensive line, how many times they were double-teamed and so forth and so on. But he’s an all-time great, he’s a better person and this is certainly a sad day.”