Bruce Allen grew up in NFL locker rooms and on NFL practice fields. He constantly was present while his father, George, coached the Redskins and Los Angeles Rams for a total of 12 seasons en route to the Hall of Fame.
Bruce, now the Redskins’ general manager, seems happiest whenever he has occasion to regale listeners with tales of that time in his life. And no subject pleases him more than his relationship with Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones, who died Monday at age 74.
“Off the field, he was a true giant,” Allen said in a statement released by the team shortly after midnight Tuesday. “His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him” said Allen. “He was cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.”
It hasn’t been an easy year for Allen. His mother, Etty, passed away in January on the Wednesday between the Redskins’ division championship victory over Dallas and their playoff loss to Seattle. With Jones’ death Monday, Allen lost one of his greatest friends.
Jones was so close to the family that he presented George Allen at Allen’s posthumous Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2002.
Throughout Bruce Allen’s three and a half seasons as Redskins general manager, he has consistently extolled Jones virtues, particularly those off the field. Jones, the menacing defensive end and original sack master, played for George Allen in Los Angeles from 1966-70 and in Washington in 1974. Jones’ deep interest in Bruce’s life helped form their lasting friendship.
Bruce, 56, first mentioned his relationship with Jones to me in July 2010 during an interview for a feature story about his partnership with coach Mike Shanahan before their first season together in Washington. We were still getting to know Bruce back then, so I asked him about his mentors. Jones was at the top of the list.
“Deacon Jones is my oldest brother,” Allen said. “I learned a lot from Deacon about life. He drove me as hard as anybody in life. I learned from the locker room. That was my greatest education because it’s individuals from all over the country with different upbringings all coming together for a single purpose.
“Deac wanted to know what my report card was. Deac took me out with him when he went out at night. It was a different era, the mid-60s when a 10-year-old could actually go out and they’d allow you in a place. Just his philosophy and his desires, what was important to him. And his loyalty to his—he called them his brothers, but his teammates. It was very inspirational for a young guy.”
No doubt Allen will continue to apply Jones’ lessons as he helps to steer the Redskins organization this season and beyond.