All-Pro Bacon dies at 66

Published 11:12 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A legend is gone.

Ironton’s athletic lore and community lost a legend with the death of former NFL All-Pro defensive lineman Coy Bacon late Sunday night.

He was 66.

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Bacon was a standout lineman and basketball player for the Ironton Fighting Tigers and went on to play at Jackson State before spending 14 years in the NFL.

“He was a great player and a great person, too. He’ll be missed,” said Danny Pride, a former Ironton and Chicago Bears linebacker who played along side of Bacon in high school and grew up as friends.

Bacon began his pro career with the Charleston (W.Va.) Rockets, a minor league team, and then spent a couple of seasons on the Dallas Cowboys’ taxi squad. Bacon was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams where he played from 1968-72 when he made his first of three Pro Bowls.

When defensive tackle Roger Brown suffered an injury in 1969, Bacon was inserted into the lineup along Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy as part of the famed Fearsome Foursome.

Lundy retired the following season and Bacon moved to right defensive end for the next three seasons. He had 11 quarterback sacks in 1971 and was named second team All-Pro.

He was voted the Rams Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1971 and ’72 by the Rams Alumni Organization.

Bacon and running back Bob Thomas were traded to San Diego in 1973 for quarterback John Hadl. It was during that season that Bacon returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Cincinnati Bengals were in need of a pass rusher and traded wide receiver Charlie Joiner for Bacon in 1976. Bacon was an All-Pro in his two seasons with the team and set a team record with 21.5 sacks, the former record that has since been broken by Mark Gastineau and then Michael Strahan.

Unofficial NFL records have Bacon with 130 career sacks.

The Bengals organization expressed its sadness at the passing of Bacon.

“Coy was a tremendous player for the Bengals, the greatest pass rusher our team has ever had,” said Bengals owner Mike Brown in a statement.

“After he left the team, he worked hard to make life better for youths in the Ironton area. What he did was admirable, something all of us respect. We are saddened by his passing.”

The Washington Redskins picked up Bacon in 1978 and he registered 15 sacks — still a Redskins’ team record — and got 11 more in 1980. He finished his career with the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983.

After his retirement, Bacon suffered a gunshot wound in a drug-related incident on Aug. 16, 1986. He moved back to Ironton and dedicated his life to helping the youth of Ironton.

“Coy said that he was going to devote himself to the youth of Ironton. He was a Christian and he cared about the people of Ironton. He wanted to help the kids here to make good decisions,” said Pride.

During Mike Burcham’s tenure as athletic director at Ironton High School, the athletic department retired Bacon’s No. 79 jersey in honor of his accomplishments.

Recently there was also a sign erected at two city entrances along with a banner on Park Avenue to pay tribute to his distinguished career.

“Coy loved Ironton and Ironton was proud of him, and not just because he was a great NFL player,” said Burcham, a teammate of Bacon’s in high school.

“Coy tried to help the kids of Ironton and it didn’t matter who they were or if they were rich or poor. He wanted to do what was best for the kids and he gave his time to help them. I think that’s the best way to remember him.”

Bacon also spent time coaching youth league girls’ basketball and serves as an assistant football coach at Ironton St. Joseph and South Point.