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Homer Jones, an NFL touchdown spike creator and former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New York Giants, passes away at the age of 82


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    Homer Jones, a former NFL wide receiver who made two Pro Bowls as a member of the New York Giants, died Wednesday morning at the age of 82 after battling lung cancer. Jones' passing was confirmed by his daughter Lacorral Jones Nickelberry to KLTV in Pittsburg, Texas.

    A native of Pittsburg in East Texas, Jones ran track and field and played college football at Texas Southern before being selected by the Houston Oilers in the 20th round of the 1963 AFL Draft. Jones, however, would be cut by the Oilers after suffering a knee injury in training camp. He would subsequently land with the New York Giants, who offered Jones a plane ticket to New York and payment for his knee surgery.

    Jones became known for his exceptional speed in New York, and he would enjoy his greatest success in the late 1960s when he emerged as a favorite target of Fran Tarkenton upon the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback's trade to the Giants in 1967. Inheriting a Giants team that had gone 1-12-1 the year before, Tarkenton quickly identified Jones as his best playmaker, even betting Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith $10 that Jones could outrun Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver "Bullet" Bob Hayes in a footrace. As legend goes, Jones won.

    Jones would have the best season of his career in 1967, catching 49 passes for 1,209 yards (averaging 24.7 yards per catch) and a league-leading 13 touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Jones would also make the Pro Bowl in 1968.

    For all his production as the Giants' star receiver, Jones' lasting impact on football would end up coming through an innovation in touchdown celebrations: At the time, the NFL had clamped down on players celebrating touchdowns by throwing the ball into the grandstands, imposing a $50 fine for any player who did so, beginning in 1965.

    After scoring an 89-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, Jones remembered the fine just as he was about to throw the ball into the stands, and instead threw it hard into the ground. Jones' move became known as "The Spike," and has become a standard celebration across football ever since.

    "I was fixing to throw it into the grandstand," Jones said in a 2015 story. "But just as I was raising my arm, the reality snapped into my head. Mr. [Pete] Rozelle would have fined me. That was a lot of money in those days. So I just threw the ball down into the end zone, into the grass. Folks got excited, and I did it for the rest of my career."

    Jones would be traded to the Cleveland Browns following the 1969 season, and he would make an immediate impression in his first game by returning the second-half kickoff for a touchdown against the New York Jets during the very first "Monday Night Football" broadcast. However, injuries would catch up to Jones and he would retire after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.

    Jones finished his NFL career with 224 receptions for 4,986 yards and 36 touchdowns, 28 of which came during a three-year stretch of 1,000+ yard seasons from 1966 to 1968. He is also credited with 17 rushing attempts for 146 yards and a touchdown as well as 888 kick return yards with a touchdown.

    Jones, who lived in his native Pittsburg at the time of his passing, is survived by his six children.

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