SS Henry Jones (1991-2000) | 5'11", 197 lbs.
Notable Achievements: 1992 Pro Bowl Selection, 1992 1st team All-Pro
Henry Louis Jones was born December 29, 1967 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the No. 26 overall pick in the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft out of Illinois. Jones was a two-time All-Big Ten selection, in 1989-90, and ranks sixth in Illini history with 11 interceptions. His play made him one of the best defensive backs in school history. His solid and sometimes spectacular play in college foreshadowed a very good career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. He wound up playing ten seasons for the Bills before finishing up his career with the Minnesota Vikings (2001) and Atlanta Falcons (2002). One of the top safeties in team history, Jones was a staple in the secondary throughout the Super Bowl years and the rest of the '90s.
Jones had a lengthy, understated career in Buffalo. He was never a big-time playmaker, nor was he a guy that made many mistakes. To put it simply, he was as solid and dependable a player as you were going to find. After a nondescript rookie season in which he played in 15 games and saw little action on the defensive side of the ball, he slid into the starting lineup the following year and would remain there for the rest of his Bills career. He replaced fan favorite Leonard Smith in the starting lineup for the 1992 season after Smith's career was derailed by a staph infection in his knee. He quickly erased the memories of Smith out there, having by far his best season as a pro in his first year as a starter. For the year, he finished with 8 interceptions, tied for most in the NFL that year, and earned his first and only Pro Bowl appearance. His 263 interception return yards also led the NFL that year. In an early season game against the Colts, he intercepted two passes and returned both for touchdowns.
Even though Jones went on to add just ten more interceptions over the rest of his career, his sturdy play, tough-nosed style and hard-hitting ability helped solidify the Bills' secondary. He was always a player that was strong in run support, as his tackle numbers backed that up. From 1995 to 2000, Jones finished with 100 or more tackles in five of those six seasons. The only time he fell short of that number was in 1996, when he broke his leg in just the fifth game of the season. He returned for the 1997 season and went on to start every game for the rest of his career. As one of the last players remaining from the Super Bowl days, Jones was released just prior to the 2001 season. For his career, Jones finished with 18 interceptions and five career touchdowns. Four of those scores came on interception returns; the other coming on special teams when he returned an onside kick 37 yards, scooting past former Bills LB Mark Maddox, for a touchdown against the Cardinals in 1999. That score was the shortest kick return for a touchdown in team history.
As previously mentioned, the best game of Jones' career was probably his two-interception performance against the Colts in 1992. He returned the first one 23 yards for a touchdown, and the other 82 yards to put the final touches on a 38-0 Bills' blowout victory.
Jones also had a couple of important post-season interceptions. The first came in the Comeback Game on a tipped pass from Warren Moon. With the Bills trailing 35-24 in the third quarter, Jones picked off Moon, returning it 15 yards to the Oilers' 23-yard line, setting up the second of three Andre Reed touchdowns.
His other important postseason interception came in the 1993 AFC Championship against the Chiefs. With just seconds remaining in the first half, and the Bills leading 20-6, Jones made the key defensive play. Jones picked off a Joe Montana pass in the end zone after it had bounced off the hands of FB Kimble Anders. The Bills went on to win the game 30-13, securing their third Super Bowl appearance.
Despite not possessing eye-popping statistics, Jones was a productive and dependable strong safety for the Bills throughout the Glory Years. His run supporting abilities, along with his underrated coverage skills, were a big part of the Bills' defense for almost a decade. Although Jones is often a forgotten member of the Super Bowl teams, his playoff performances and timely big plays were a big reason why the team kept winning for all those years. He was also selected by fans to the Bills' All-Millennium team in 1999. He isn't remembered as the best safety in team history (though he is up near the top), but he was a significant piece of the Bills' Super Bowl defenses. He had a very good career for the Bills, and some might even say the team is still trying to replace his dependability and production at the strong safety position.
Career Stats with the Bills
144 games, 129 starts
18 interceptions (No. 14 in franchise history)
455 interception return yards (No. 5)
4 interceptions returned for TD (No. 4)
5 sacks (No. 34)
9 fumble recoveries (No. 11)
664 tackles, unofficially (No. 4)