Jones should be in

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Next week in Hamilton, they'll unveil this year's inductees to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Down in Folkston, Ga., fighting for his life in a hospital, lies a man who's as deserving of the honour as anyone I can think of.

But Tyrone Jones didn't make the grade. Even if he had, he wouldn't be making much of an acceptance speech.

These days, Jones, one of the most loquacious players in Blue Bomber history, can barely talk at all. A brain tumour that's ravaged one side of his face has seen to that.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'm a four," he managed over the phone yesterday.

TOSSED IT ASIDE

Actually, Jones is probably selling himself short.

For starters, he's taken his doctor's diagnosis and tossed it aside like he used to toss aside blockers on his way to the quarterback.

Jones, 46, was given six months to live -- and that was three years ago.

About two months ago, he was forced to leave his home and get more round-the-clock care. But that hasn't stopped him, either.

The man who entertained CFL fans for a decade, beginning in 1983, is still at it, only his audience is limited to fellow patients, visitors and staff at Sunbridge Care and Rehabilitation.

"Nurses will come here a lot and talk to him," India Wilson, who's one of them, was saying from Jones' bedside. "He keeps us laughing all the time. We ask him why he's so happy. He'll say he doesn't have that much time, and he'll try to have fun while he can.

"For his condition, he's real happy. I don't know how he does it."

A description of Jones' condition isn't for the squeamish.

The cancer has disfigured the left side of his face, causing partial paralysis.

"It made the side of his face cave in," Wilson explained. "He doesn't eat, because the way his face is turned, he really can't chew. And when he swallows, he chokes."

Ice cream and yogurt is pretty much all he can manage, so Jones gets the rest of his nourishment through a feeding tube.

None of this stops him from getting out of bed and visiting other patients, cheering them up when he can.

Better than lying in bed, moping, he says.

Sometimes Jones will talk about his football career, making sure anyone who'll listen knows how good he was.

Anyone who watched him play already knows.

From 1984 to '87 Jones was arguably the best linebacker in the game, winding up his Bomber career, following the '91 season, with 98 quarterback sacks, still the franchise's career leader.

NO SACK DANCE

I don't recall him having a sack dance back then. But Wilson says he'll dance at the hospital now and again, if he has the energy.

"He would," an amused Lyle Bauer, Jones's former teammate and now the Bomber president, said. "It's a brutal disease, and can do what it wants to the exterior, but it can't attack the character. And he is a character."

Whether calling out an O-lineman that he just beat, or calling out Cal Murphy, his GM, for what he felt was unfair treatment of players, it seems Jones never stopped.

He played the same way, named a CFL all-star four times, a division all-star five, the league's top defensive player once and the top defensive player in the 1984 Grey Cup game, where his four sacks remains a Grey Cup record.

While he was in the NFL for the '88 Bomber championship, he returned to help lead the team to a second title two years later, adding another sack for a career total of five Cup sacks -- still a CFL record.

Seasons with Saskatchewan and B.C. to close his career left Jones with 110 career sacks.

Those are Hall of Fame numbers if I've ever seen them.


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