Jones milked life to max

Tyrone Jones was a great linebacker and a footloose individual who fought a valiant battle against...

Tyrone Jones was a great linebacker and a footloose individual who fought a valiant battle against cancer. SUN MEDIA FILE

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

The news came first thing yesterday morning: the mouth that roared had finally been silenced.

Tyrone Jones, one of the great Blue Bombers of them all, a linebacker who talked as good a game as he played, finally let cancer take him to the sidelines.

But only after he'd waged a furious, three-and-a-half year battle with the disease, treating it like he used to treat blockers -- by showing it who was boss.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour in August, 2005, and given just months to live, Jones died yesterday at 4:30 a.m., at the Hospice of the Golden Isles in Brunswick, Ga., just 45 minutes from his hometown of St. Mary's. He was 46.

Some three-and-a-half hours away, down in Atlanta, the man who became like a brother to Jones in Winnipeg experienced a flood of emotions.

"There's so much to tell about him -- I wouldn't know where to start," James West began.

West and Jones were synonymous with the great Bomber teams of 1984-90, as dynamic a pair of linebackers as you'll see. But their relationship went far beyond the huddle.

"Me and Ty were joined together at the hip," West said. "We did almost everything you could do together. He's the only person I would drive right across the country to see. He's been my best friend for almost 30 years."

It began when they played against each other in college. Landing side by side on the Bomber defence, they became inseparable, roommates on the road and at home.

One year stands out, a year they lived with James Murphy and Ken Winey.

"WILD YEAR"

"That was a wild year," the man they called Wild West, recalled. "Boy, we had some fun. I could be on the phone with you all day, telling you how much fun we had."

That's the one word that always seems to come up when talking about Jones: fun. He milked life to the max, chasing quarterbacks on the field, and known to pursue a woman or two off it.

West, who jokes about how many ex-wives and girlfriends will show up at Jones's funeral, says the most memorable thing about Jones has nothing to do with football or being footloose.

"Most people identify Tyrone as being a football player -- but he was much more than that," West said. "He was a great person. He would give you the shirt off his back. Literally. If he saw somebody hurting, if he had money in his wallet he'd give him his last. His brother is a doctor because of Ty, one of the most respected doctors in Georgia. He always gave, man."

Ninety-eight times Jones gave quarterbacks his calling card as a Bomber, more than anyone in team history. His four sacks in the '84 championship are still a Grey Cup record.

The CFL's top defensive player in '85 and a league all-star four times, Jones quickly won the hearts of fans, including one named Troy Westwood, who later became his teammate.

"He was such a vibrant guy," Westwood, the Bomber kicker, recalled. "He was a special talent, and a real interesting human being. He was flat-out wild. Everybody loved him and just fed off the energy he gave."

Even as he battled his illness.

Nurses at one of the hospitals he spent time in say he was the life of the place, even as he was dying. The cancer could change his appearance and ravage his face, but his spirit remained intact.

A spirit West has captured in hours of video, saved from their days as a Bomber.

"We always thought we would live forever," West said.

Who knows, maybe Jones will be immortalized, yet.

There was some noise about nominating him for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this past year.

It was too late to get him on the ballot, but wouldn't it be just like Jones to fight his way in, posthumously.

"With a spin move," West said.


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