Sign immortalizes Bacon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2003

Everyone in Ironton knows Coy Bacon was a great football player. Now everyone visiting Ironton will know, too.

The city of Ironton

unveiled a sign Saturday during ceremonies at the Festival of the Hills honoring Bacon who was an All-Pro in the National Football League and listed by experts in a Sports Illustrated issue as one of the best pass rushers in league history.

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"I was going out of town today to see (coach) Carl Lee's team (West Virginia State). My wife Pat told me I had to go down (to the Festival of the Hills). I'm glad I listened to my wife," Bacon said.

Bacon admitted that he never dreamed that he would one day be immortalized in his hometown.

"As a child and adult, it's something you never dream of. I'm proud of it. The Lord has blessed me. I can use this as a way to help change people. I want to see that people are on the right road and reach their highest goal. I didn't have all the opportunities other people have had, but I made the most of what I had. It's an honor. People of all walks of life will see it."

Bacon returned to Ironton 17 years ago after his retirement from pro football.

"This town has been good to me, and I'm just trying to be good to it," Bacon said. "To everybody who had a part in this, I appreciate it and thank them from the bottom of my heart."

The sign joins a previously erected tribute to Ironton's George McAfee who is a member of the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. A sign will be posted at all three entrances to the city.

Bacon played at Ironton High School and Jackson State before being signed to a semipro contract by the Charleston Rockets.

It was with the Rockets that a Dallas Cowboys scout spotted him and eventually signed him. After two years on the "Taxi Squad" or practice team, Bacon made the team roster in 1967. After the season, Bacon was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams who had an opening on their defensive line when Lamar Lundy became ill and had to retire.

Bacon was a member of the Rams "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line from 1968-72. The front four included David "Deacon" Jones, Merlin Olsen, and Roger Brown. Bacon played across from such great players as Art Shell and "Mean" Joe Greene, a couple of Hall of Famers. Jones and Olsen are also in the Hall of Fame.

In desperate need of a pass rusher, San Diego made a deal for Bacon who spent the 1973-75 seasons with the Chargers.

It was in 1974 that Bacon scored his only NFL touchdown with an 80-yard fumble return.

Next, it was the Cincinnati Bengals who needed a pass rusher and they sent future Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner to the Chargers.

Bacon led the Bengals and league with an unofficial record 26 sacks. The league - which later reduced his number to 22 - did not recognize sacks until the 1982 season. He had four sacks of New York quarterback Joe Namath in a 42-3 win at Shea Stadium, Namath's last game as a Jet.

Bacon had 15 sacks the following season.

"As a pass rusher, Coy had tremendous ability," said former Bengals coach Bill "Tiger" Johnson who spent 43 years in the profession. "Coy had excellent quickness. As a pass rusher, Gino Marchetti of the Colts and Deacon Jones were two of the best. Marchetti was really something. But Coy was equal in that phase. He was a great pass rusher."

Regardless if the NFL recognized the sack record, Bacon was selected a first team All-Pro and was voted the Bengals Most Valuable Player. The next team to need a pass rusher was the Washington Redskins who traded for Bacon in 1978.

He had 15 sacks in 1979, setting a team record that was later broken by Dexter Manley. He played with Washington until his release following the 1981 season. He then played one year with the now defunct USFL's Washington Federals before retiring.

Bacon, who is employed by the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correction Facility, works with youth in the community counseling against drug and alcohol abuse and is an assistant coach at South Point High School.

"I love what I do. I'm going to keep doing good for this city," Bacon said. "I feel good. No doubt about it, you surprised me. I'm happy. I'm thrilled to death today. I'll never forget this."