Jones has visions of doing to the sand sculpture what he did to NFL quarterbacks for 14 seasons. Six times during the 40-minute photo shoot, he will ask, "Y'all done? Can I wreck it now?"
It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked about his patented head slap, Jones is only too happy to demonstrate it in slow motion, bringing his left palm flush up against a reporter's right ear, producing a ringing sensation that lingers long after. "You think that rings?" Jones says. "I had a metal plate cut to fit in the palm of my hand." To this day his grin is distilled evil, an offensive tackle's nightmare. "I used to wrap that mother with a wet cast, then let the cast dry. That's what you got upside your head, every 30 seconds."
The affable Strahan listens attentively. Because he grew up in Germany, he didn't get much early exposure to the NFL. "I've seen the films," says Strahan. "This guy was the best ever. I didn't know about a lot of guys, but I knew about Deacon Jones. He made defensive end a glamour position."
BROWN, AGE 63
Browns, 1957-65; 6'2", 232 pounds; ran for 12,312 yards, led the league in rushing eight times, averaged 5.2 yards per carry, scored 126 touchdowns—all records at the time; three-time NFL player of the year; inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971
WILLIAMS, AGE 22
Saints, 1999; 5'10", 236 pounds; '98 Heisman Trophy winner; Division l-A career rushing leader, with 6,279 yards; Saints traded all their picks in the '99 draft and first-and third-round selections in 2000 for the opportunity to take him with the fifth pick in the draft
Williams knows full well that he's in the company of greatness. Though he never saw Brown play, Williams understands the standard by which his career will be judged. "A lot of players come into the NFL and think they're the greatest thing ever, but I have respect for what came before," he says. "I know linebackers are faster now and defenses are more specialized, but the game is essentially the same as it always was. Toughness is the most important quality for any running back, and Jim Brown was amazing. He used to carry people on his back."