NFL Alumni to Honor Len Dawson, Deacon Jones and Paul Salata.
The NFL Alumni has selected Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Deacon Jones to be inducted into the organization's Order of the Leather Helmet, and awarded philanthropist Paul Salata its Career Achievement Award. Dawson, Jones and Salata will be formally honored during the Evening with the Legends Dinner, held April 8, 2000, in San Diego, Cal., as the highlight of the NFL Alumni's annual convention.
"All three honorees have been very successful in their second careers," said NFL Alumni President and CEO Frank Krauser, "but what really sets Len, Deacon and Paul apart is their unwavering commitment to helping others."
The three men were selected for their respective honors by the NFL Alumni's Board of Directors. Order of the Leather Helmet inductees are recognized for "substantial contributions to professional football" and Career Achievement Awards winners are former players "whose accomplishments on and off the field reflect the higher values promoted by the organization."
A first round draft pick in 1957, Len Dawson joined the Dallas Texans in 1962. That year, he led them to the AFL Championship and was named AFL Player of the Year. In 1963, the Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs. Dawson continued his stellar play, leading the Chiefs to two more championships. The highlight of his career came in Super Bowl IV, when Dawson earned MVP honors leading the Chiefs to a 23-7 victory over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings.
Dawson retired from the NFL in 1976. He is a popular Kansas City radio and television sportscaster and, for the past 20 years, has also served as co-host of the HBO's "Inside the NFL."
Fellow Hall of Famer David "Deacon" Jones was selected in the 14th round of the 1961 draft. But his raw athleticism, speed and attitude enabled him to develop quickly into one of the league's most feared pass rushers. Jones invented the term "sack" recorded so many that he won unanimous all-league honors six consecutive years (1965-70) and played in seven successive Pro Bowls. He was voted the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968.
Jones retired in 1974, and is still considered one of the NFL's greatest all-time defensive players. Although he has appeared in numerous feature films, Jones made his television series debut this year playing the narrator of the new USA Network original series, Gvs.E.
Like Jones, fellow honoree Paul Salata, embodies a rags-to-riches story. The second of seven sons of Yugoslavian immigrants, Salata parlayed a USC football scholarship into two Rose Bowl appearances. He also ran track and played baseball.
After his graduation in 1949, Salata played professional football and baseball until 1953. His football career included stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and the CFL. In the early 1960s, he and his brothers formed the first of a number of construction-related companies.
Eventually, Salata relinquished interest in all his companies and today owns G.A.S. Investments, a real estate investment company. Much of his time, however, is devoted to numerous philanthropic activities. In 1976, Salata founded Irrelevant Week, which honors the last player taken in the NFL draft. The event has become a fixture of the annual selection process.
The NFL Alumni Inc. is a 501(3)(c) charity comprised of former NFL players and associate members who work voluntarily to raise funds for youth-oriented causes. The NFL Alumni advances its motto of "Caring for Kids" from its national headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and an additional 28 chapters located across the country.