WINNIPEG — Tyrone Jones, the colourful and outspoken linebacker who helped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers capture two Grey Cup titles during his eight-year tenure with the CFL club, has died. He was 46.
Jones died in his native Georgia on Tuesday morning. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2005.
Bombers president Lyle Bauer was a teammate of Jones and said his gregarious spirit will forever be remembered.
“In typical Tyrone fashion, they (doctors) gave him three-to-six months to live three or four years ago,” Bauer said. “He just goes out on his terms regardless of who is calling the shots.”
Jones’ death certainly strikes a chord with Bauer, himself a cancer survivor after being diagnosed in 2004 with throat cancer.
And, Bauer added, Jones never wanted pity or people to feel sorry for him. Instead, he’d want them to mourn his passing by celebrating his life and accomplishments.
“He was always a lot of fun,” Bauer said. “He was gregarious, always full of it and always talking.
“Right down to the last minute he was joking, that sort of thing. No, he led a good life and he was proud of his accomplishments. We were fortunate enough to have him up here a few years ago when he was healthy enough to travel so people could say ‘Hello,’ to him and support him. You could see at that time how revered he was in this market and across the CFL.”
Jones joined the Bombers in 1983 and spent eight seasons with the CFL club (’83-87, 89-91). The former Southern University star also spent time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions. He tried out for the NFL’s Phoenix Cardinals in 1988.
On the field, Jones was a master of trash talking. However, he backed it up with a combative, rugged playing style that made him a thorn in the side of many offensive co-ordinators.
“He would tell you where he was going and what he was going to do,” Bauer said. “He would call you names, he’d call your family names.
“He’d do whatever he had to in order to get things done.”
And, regardless of the situation, Bauer said Jones would rarely admit defeat.
“No matter the odds, Tyrone would always be the champion and the winner,” Bauer said. “I remember one time he was wrestling with (centre) Bob Molle in the locker-room.
“Bob was a former Olympic wrestler (a 1980 silver medallist) and pretty much had Tyrone tied up like a pretzel and Tyrone was on the ground barely able to breathe because Bob had him tied up . . . yet he’s asking Molle if he had given up yet.
“That was Tyrone. He was always full of it.”
Jones was a four-time CFL all-star and still holds the Winnipeg career sack record (98) along with Grey Cup records for most sacks in a game (four) and most career Grey Cup sacks (five).
He anchored a Bombers defence that helped the team capture CFL titles in 1984 and 1990. Jones was the ’84 Grey Cup MVP and in 1985 was named the CFL’s top defensive player.
Jones is survived by his three sons. Funeral services are pending.