SI Vault
Douglas S. Looney
May 04, 1981
Ed (Too Tall) Jones is a great athlete who has never lived up to the expectations of a public that believes he should be as good as he is big
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May 04, 1981

The Tall And The Short Of It

Ed (Too Tall) Jones is a great athlete who has never lived up to the expectations of a public that believes he should be as good as he is big

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The soft, warm ocean breeze drifted across Waikiki Beach, across Kalakaua Avenue, and then ever so gently through the Cock's Roost, an open-air bar where Ed (Too Tall) Jones, who had just dropped in for a beer, had broken into song. Too Tall singing? Indeed, if your definition of singing is broad enough, that's what Too Tall was doing.

Why not? After all, Jones, a 6'9", 260-pound, 30-year-old defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, has spent a lifetime doing the unexpected. Signed by Tennessee State University in 1969 as a basketball player—51 other colleges also wanted him for hoops—he quit that sport after two seasons to devote himself to football, for which no school had tried to recruit him, including Tennessee State. And all the while he wondered if baseball wasn't really his main interest. Or singing.

Then, despite his limited football background—he'd played in only three games in high school and had to spend a lot of time in college learning the basics—Jones was the first player picked in the NFL draft in 1974. The Cowboys found his prodigious talents, however raw, to be irresistible, and a brilliant career was forecast for him by scouts from other NFL teams, too. There was an awful lot of talk that Jones just might turn out to be the best pro football player ever.

On draft day Gil Brandt, Dallas' personnel chief, said facetiously, "We were very glad Ed Jones was still there when we had our chance to pick." In fact, the Cowboys had been maneuvering for two years to make sure that they would be able to select Jones, and when Coach Tom Landry was asked about Jones' potential, he said, "It's unlimited." But Too Tall has come up short. He has been a good pro, sometimes a great pro, but much, much more was expected.

In 1979 Jones quit football—never to return, he said—to take up professional boxing, a life-long love. A year later he was back in the NFL. "I have my personal reasons," he said mystifyingly. And now he is dead earnest about singing. "I've always taken every involvement in music seriously," says Jones, who even in college used to drop into nightclubs for a song or two. "But now that I'm an artist, I take it very seriously. I'm not going to be just another football player trying to sing." His first single had Do the Dip - 81 on one side and Funkin On Your Radio ("Eeny, meeny, miney mo, we're funkin' on your radio/ We're the band with the master plan/ Now we're gonna funk you like no other can") on the other. Last month Jones recorded his first album in Memphis. "I'm going to be honest," says Too Tail's brother. Cliff, an executive with Fun City Records, "I think his voice is commercial. The public will accept it. It's adequate."

Ed, are you a good singer?

"I know I am and I will be. I'm a natural."

But are you trained?

"Sure, I trained myself."

Well, Elvis didn't get unanimous raves either when he started out. Besides, the larger point is that when Jones sang at the Cock's Roost, it was clear he was ecstatically happy—and that hasn't always been the case with him. He was in Hawaii to help his agent, Don Cronson of New York City, hustle up new clients from among the college basketball stars playing in the April 9-11 Aloha Classic, and to pamper himself in anticipation of the grueling NFL season.

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