NFL

Producer of Emmy-winning piece fondly remembers ‘kind soul’ NFL great Deacon Jones

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As part of ESPN’s ongoing tribute to the late Deacon Jones, the network is airing portions of an interview from a 2006 sit-down producer Martin Khodabakhshian conducted for a 2007, Emmy Award-winning NFL Countdown piece called “Fear.”

Producer Martin Khodabakhshian spent just an hour with Deacon Jones more than six years ago, but it left such an impression that when he learned of Jones’ passing, he was shaken.

“It chips away at your mortality and makes you realize your love of sport and sports icons,” said the Emmy-winning producer.

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Khodabakhshian’s goal for the “Fear” piece was to “interview the most feared players in the NFL” on both sides of the ball, which led him to Jones’ home in Anaheim Hills, Calif.

“We weren’t best friends — not after one hour of shooting — but our job as producers is to dive right into the heart of the onion,” Khodabakhshian said. “So immediately we went hard core for one hour — about his ability to instill fear, and its effect on the game — we didn’t go over his favorite colors or pizza toppings.

“Even in an elder state, skinnier, he still had the intimidation factor,” Khodabakhshian said. “He was also really a kind soul.”

Those two emotions would play themselves out throughout the afternoon.

When Jones was asked why he was so mean, Khodabakhshian says, “He replied without hesitation, ‘I hated everything and everybody.’ It wasn’t a preposterous answer. It was just so blunt, honest, and so extreme. For the first time ever in an interview, I busted out laughing. So did everyone in the room.

“You’re talking about the fire, the innate gladiator aspect of the game — he was that dude,” he said. “They took away the head slap — they had to literally install a rule because he was too dominant.”

But Jones also showed a softer side when asked about his teammates who with him composed the old Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome: Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier.

“He spoke so fondly of his linemen,” Khodabakhshian said. “You could see it on his face, when he was going back to that time in his mind, how he felt about his teammates, and together, they were so dialed in, to the essence of sport and the brutality of the game.”

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