Ed “Too Tall” Jones Is a legendary defensive lineman from the 1970s Dallas Cowboys teams. He played with the world-famous America’s Team version of the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry and was in the NFL for 15 years, interrupting his career for one year of professional boxing, where he went undefeated. Along with “Mean” Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ed is probably the most recognizable defensive player of the 70s, an era wherein most defensive players remained anonymous. At six feet, nine inches, Ed was a bit too big to hide and too much for most offensive linemen. He’s a former Super Bowl champion and a three-time Pro Bowler, who is only credited with 57 sacks, but they didn’t record sacks until midway through his career. Unofficially, he had 106. Either way, he put the fear of God in many an NFL quarterback.
I started with the usual questions and let Ed go. I didn’t have to prod him or guide him, just ask him questions and listen intently. What was your first car?
My first car was a 1948 Chevy. I used to watch the old gangster movies, like Elliot Ness, and I saw that car and absolutely loved it. There was a guy in Tennessee that was an antique collector and I talked him into letting me buy that 1948 Chevy.
Where do you think the car is now?
I would give anything to know, and in fact, I would try and buy it back…(he chuckles)…I sold it when I finished college and had it all during college. When I graduated, I bought a new Cadillac Eldorado that I thought was just the most beautiful thing. Then I sold the 1948 Chevy.
What color was it?
It was solid black.
How old were you when you first learned how to drive?
I grew up on a big farm in Tennessee and I learned how to drive sitting in my dad’s lap, driving a tractor. Then, when we would get in the car, I would sit in his lap and drive, being as we lived way out in the country. We were, like, six miles from the city, so he would sit me in his lap and let me drive. The first time he trusted me on my own, I was, probably, 14 years old.
What is your favorite color combination with cars?
My favorite color combination would be a two-tone – black and grey.
I wondered what such a gentle man, who endured such a rough business, listened to when he drove. He grew up on a farm, lived in the South. What was his soundtrack while he drove around this big country?
What kind of music do you listen to when you drive?
Blues. I grew up listening to the blues.
Do you sing along when you are driving?
No. I do not torture myself to death.
Most interesting thing that you have done in a car.
Most interesting thing that I have done in a car?…ummm…(CHUCKLE)…l have always wanted to know what it feels like to be behind the wheel at 150 miles per hour, so I did it once. It was just a few years ago that I was driving to Houston for the NBA all-star game. I go to all the NBA all-star games – I am a big basketball fan. I go with a group of friends and most of them still live in Tennessee and Florida, so we were going to need a car in Houston. I took my SUV, which is considered the fastest SUV on the road. I left early in the morning and I waited until I got on some good freeway. There was not a car out there, and I am a very safe driver. I got it up to 150 miles per hour, and once I got to 150 miles per hour, I got off of it and I was satisfied. Never want to do it again.
I took a guess as to where it was. Being from Texas, there are only so many places you could get away with driving that fast.
Was that on 1-45?
What type of SUV?
My Mercedes G55. I have been on the Autobahn in Germany and I had my limousine driver…I was over there doing some promotion work and we got on that thing. I was in the back seat and it was the most uncomfortable I have ever been in my life because he got it up to 165 miles per hour. I do not like it unless I am behind the wheel.
So you felt that you were not in control?
Tell me about your Chevy truck that we are going to shoot some photos of today.
Earl Campbell is a friend of mine. I was in Austin a few years ago, and he had me over to his home for lunch and I saw his Chevy truck. He is a member of the Chevy Club and his truck is ranked number four in the country. When I saw it, I said that I would give anything to see number three, two and one. He told me that number two belonged to his neighbor and he called, but the neighbor was not at home. Earl Campbell has been trying to buy the number two truck from his neighbor, and his neighbor told him that Earl would have to give him his bank account, his home and his truck.
Earl said, ‘Ed, if you are going to get into this whole Chevy Collectors Club, you are going to need to buy you a short- bed with five windows.’ I looked for one that was not already fixed up because I have my own ideas and I want to do it myself. I found one two years ago and I have been putting together different ideas of what I want to do with it. I have been going back and forth on the ideas because I really want to make it right and totally different than any other out there. I think I am close to putting it all together.
Tell me more about the Chevy truck, and do you plan on entering it into the Chevy Club contests? Do you want to compete with Earl Campbell’s Chevy?
I have narrowed the restoration down to three different ideas that I think are all absolutely fantastic, but I want to see the number one, two and three rated trucks because I want mine to rank right up there so that it can be in the top five when restored.
What year is it?
It is a 1951.
What year is your Mercedes SUV G55?
It is a 2005 – the last year that Mercedes made the G55. They only made 300. They are not making them anymore, other than for military lieutenants and sergeants. They bullet-proof them and send them to war. I just thought about the uniqueness of buying something that is the last year that they will manufacture it. Mine is number 113 and, for me, being six-foot nine, there is plenty of head room, plenty of leg room and, even though I drive the speed limit, I like knowing that it is the fastest SUV on the road. Just in case.
How many miles does it have on it?
Probably less than 20,000. Where I live, I am centrally located, so I am never on the highway much. The furthest I have ever driven was to Houston. That is what I drove to the all-star game, and I will never do that again. It is short runs to the airport and the golf course, so I am never on the highway more than 10 minutes.
What was the first car that you got when you first got signed in the NFL?
That was 1974, and I bought a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado. I thought it was the prettiest car in the world at the time. I kept it two years. I love keeping cars a longtime, but I kept it for just two years because it really wasn’t a good car. Cadillac makes good cars, I am sure, but this was perhaps a lemon. So, I traded it in and bought a 1976 SLC Mercedes that I kept for 11 years. I love keeping cars a long time.
How many cars do you think you have had since you were first signed by the NFL?
Six…including what I have now.
Wow. Compared to many athletes I’ve Interviewed, that isn’t very many. He must really develop a love for, and take care of, his vehicles.
What has been your all-time favorite?
My favorite all-time was a 1957 Chevy that I have always loved – even when I was a kid – and I still do. My second favorite that I bought was a Silver Shadow 2 1980 Rolls Royce. I thought it was the cutest and nicest body in the world, so I kept it until it was totaled. I would still have it if it had not gotten totaled.
Oh no, how did it get totaled?
I had some lady friends of mine that wanted to use it for a bachelorette party. They took it out and the lady that was driving it – the one responsible for it – dropped everybody off. She stopped off to get some cigarettes, was pulling out of the convenience store and a vehicle speeding caused her to hit the gas. Being as that car was so fast, she hit a pole. Anytime you damage the front end of a Rolls Royce, it is no good anymore. It will never be the same.
The frame got bent?
Yes. It was totally damaged, so that was it. It was a bronze color. At night it looked black, but during the day it was a bronze color. It was absolutely beautiful. I loved it. Miss that car.
A Rolls Royce, Cadillac and Mercedes SUV – what Ed had was stylish and powerful. He is a big guy, so there’s a practical need for room and horsepower.
I know that you were attached to your Rolls Royce, but let’s say that you could go out and buy any car in the world today. What would that car be?
I have my dream car; my dream car was my 1957 Chevy, which I had for 20 years. I got tired of convertibles. Every time that I would take it out, it would be a beautiful day and people would recognize me in it. I am one that never likes attention. When I first got it, I did not care and I loved the attention that it attracted. But I do not anymore…No, now I am trying to hide. So I said, rather than just let it sit in my garage, somebody could use this car. I shipped it to Tennessee so that friends of mine could drive it. If I get the right offer, I will sell it.
I knew that Ed also likes motorcycles, though, admittedly, he’d have to stick to a big bike to support his size.
I hear that you have a Harley. What model is it?
I have a 1992 Soft-tail Springer. When I bought it, they did not have the TV motorcycle shows where they customize. Being six-foot nine, it looks like the bike is riding me, you know what I am saying? So, if I had heard of those customizing shops at the time, I would have had one custom- built for me. What I did was, I had a guy in Kentucky that was known for his paintwork for hot rods. Also, I had it shipped from the factory in Milwaukee to Kentucky where they took every piece loose and chromed everything that they could chrome. Then they put all of these different paints together where it was a colorful bike because I got tired of hearing people say that they got hit, or this person pulled in front of me, or I did not see you. I said, ‘If you do not see this coming, you must be legally blind.’ I wanted something very colorful to take out on beautiful days with friends. I have several friends of mine who are Harley collectors and I like to just joyride with them sometimes.
What colors do you have on your Harley?
My Harley is maroon, fuchsia, yellow, teal – a splash of color – but they all tie together. I spent an entire day with the family that painted it, putting colors together.
Were you ever influenced by another teammate’s choice in cars?
Early in my career, I used to envy my teammates’ cars, being as they had all of the hot cars – the Porsches, known as the fastest car on the road and all of that. I would love to drive that, but I couldn’t fit in it. One of my teammates bought a car that I absolutely loved. I used to watch the TV show Route 66.1 tried to buy a 1966 ‘vette, but could not fit in it because the dash extends out. So the owner of the 1966 ‘vette said, ‘Ed, do not ask me to take out the back seat and do all of this drilling.’
Raise the roof…
Yes, but one of my teammates had one. I used to envy my teammates’ vehicles that I would love to drive.
Well, it is obvious by his size that “Too Tall” fits, but why was he too tall? Tall, yes, but what made him too tall?
Tell me how you got the nickname “Too Tall?”
First day of practice in college, I walked into the equipment room and the trainer gave me the longest pair of pants that he had. They hit me above my knees. He shook his head and said, ‘Wear these, stay out of contact drills and we will have you a pair made.’ I walked on the field and a guy who played forthe Cleveland Browns did a double take and said, ‘Hey, do you know that you are too tall for football?’
That is a great story.
I am glad that something started, because I had been called so many names. I’m glad that everyone settled for one.
Was Tom Landry your coach your whole career with the Cowboys?
Tom Landry was my couch for 14 years and I played with Jimmy Johnson for one year.
So you did play for Coach Jimmy Johnson?
Yes, I did.
In that one year with Jimmy Johnson, it was with Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek.
You also played with Lee Roy Jordan?
Yes. The best leader I have ever played with, the best j vocal leader. He knew how to get under everybody’s skin I in a positive way.
How many years were you with the Dallas Cowboys?
Fifteen years. I hold the record for most years and most games.
You signed directly with the Dallas Cowboys?
The Cowboys traded in 1973 with the Houston Oilers for Toby Smith and Billy Parks, which made me the first overall pick. This blew me away at the time because, during that time, the first overall pick was always the quarterback, running back – the guys that play the glamour positions. To be a lineman, to be the first one chosen, who did not even have a high school career, I thought it was just absolutely amazing.
It is, because you are so outstanding.
Well, I try to be. Either that or I fooled them. □
I can honestly say that Ed possesses a heart the size of Texas. He was hospitable, congenial, courteous and kind. He kept us relaxed and smiling the whole time we were at his house, and afterwards he insisted on taking Catherine “the photographer” and I out for a Texas-size steak dinner. He even gave us his season tickets to the Cowboys game the next day, and incredible seats they were!