Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Lyle Bauer took a moment yesterday to reflect on two things: his good health and the loss of a good friend.
Bauer was informed early yesterday that former teammate Tyrone Jones, 46, had died of brain cancer. It was a call Bauer knew was coming, even though Jones had outlived the doctors' prediction.
"They gave him three to six months to live three or four years ago," said Bauer, who was diagnosed with throat cancer a year before Jones's tumour was discovered. "He went out on his terms. That was Ty."
Jones died while being cared for at a rehabilitation centre in Folkston, Ga. He was with family and was often visited by another former Winnipeg teammate, James West, who called Bauer to say one of the CFL's most energetic and outgoing linebackers had succumbed to his illness.
"It's days like this when it certainly gives you a reminder to continue the fight [for a cure for cancer]" said Bauer, who has aided that fight with an annual fundraiser in Winnipeg. "When I think about Ty, I don't know if there is one story [that best epitomizes him] but gregarious is the only word you can come up with. He never stopped. On the field, off the field, he was always going."
Jones spent eight CFL seasons with the Blue Bombers (1983-87 and 1989-91) and one each with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1992) and B.C. Lions (1993) and was always a force, whether he was playing or simply talking. He could cover running backs in pass patterns, rush the quarterback and create havoc with a tongue that was sharper than broken glass. His statistics prove that.
Jones holds the Winnipeg franchise record for most career quarterback sacks (98) and the league record for most sacks in a Grey Cup game (four in 1984). He was the 1984 Grey Cup game's most outstanding player, as well as the CFL's top defensive player in 1985.
Jones was a four-time league all-star and, according to his supporters, should have been elected to the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I totally believe he should be in the Hall," Bauer said. "Look at his accomplishments. There's no question the selection committee should take a long look at them. He was an impact player. ... He could do what he wanted whenever he wanted."
Jones was coaching football at the U.S. college level when he began experiencing health problems. After his left eye started protruding, Jones was told it was because of a tumour in his brain.
Doctors gave him only a 2-per-cent chance of surviving the surgery needed to remove the growth. Jones decided to undergo radiation and chemotherapy and refused to lapse into self-pity.
"I've never asked, 'Why me?' I've never questioned it," Jones said during his last visit to Winnipeg, during the 2006 Grey Cup. "You gotta do what you gotta do. I just have to deal with it and live my life."
Details for a memorial service had yet to be completed yesterday.