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Homer Jones, Giants’ big-play receiver, dies at 82


Football: New York Giants Homer Jones (45) in action vs Philadelphia Eagles at Yankee Stadium. Bronx, NY 11/26/1967 CREDIT: Walter Iooss Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images/Getty Images) (Set Number: X12867 )

Sports Illustrated via Getty Ima

Homer Jones, who was known as both one of the fastest players of his era and as the inventor of the game’s most common touchdown celebration, has died at the age of 82.

A wide receiver who played mostly for the Giants in the 1960s, Jones was known for his blazing speed and is still the NFL’s all-time record holder with a career average of 22.3 yards per catch.

But Jones may be best known as the first player ever to spike the football after scoring a touchdown. Jones recalled years later that he had a different celebration in mind, but the threat of an NFL fine led him to simply throw the ball directly into the dirt, and soon other players were emulating him.

“I had always said that when I made my first touchdown I was gonna throw the ball in the stands,” Jones said. “They changed the rules in the offseason to I think a $500 fine for throwing the ball into the stands. And as I crossed the goal line my intention had always been to throw that ball into the stands, but I thought about that $500 and I threw it on the ground. So that was the original spike right there.”

Jones originally signed with the Houston Oilers in 1963, but the Oilers cut him when he injured his knee in training camp. He then went to the Giants, where his signing bonus was the price of a bus ticket to New York and a promise that the Giants would pay for his knee surgery.

Still recovering from the injury, Jones didn’t play at all in 1963 and didn’t do much in 1964. But in 1965, he showed off his big-play potential, averaging 27.3 yards per catch. From 1966 to 1968 he had three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and he led the NFL in touchdowns with 14 in 1967.

Jones was traded to the Browns in 1970, and he’s best remembered in Cleveland for returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the NFL’s first-ever Monday Night Football game. Jones was traded again in 1971, to the Cardinals, but knee injuries had slowed him down and he retired, having played his last pro football game at age 29.

“Homer Jones had a unique combination of speed and power and was a threat to score whenever he touched the ball,” Giants owner John Mara said. “I remember him as an easygoing, friendly individual who was well liked by his teammates and coaches.”