One of the greatest Left Tackles in NFL History will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. Walter Jones Jr. played in the NFL for thirteen* seasons, all of which took place in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Seahawks. During his thirteen seasons, Jones was a nine time Pro-Bowl selection (1999, 2001-2008) and seven time All-Pro selection (2001, 2002, 2004-2008). He made the NFL’s all decade team for the 2000’s and had his number 71 jersey retired into the Seahawks Ring of Honor - only the fourth number to be retired by the franchise.
While eight Seahawk players are in the Hall of Fame, Jones will only be the third to have spent his entire career with the franchise, following Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy.
Walter Jones Jr. was the sixth overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. After transferring from Holmes Community College to Florida State, Jones had to redshirt the 1995 season. After one season at FSU, Jones decided to skip his Senior season and enter the draft. Jones’ career with the Seattle Seahawks is unprecedented. He played in 180 games during his tenure in Seattle and started each and every one of them.
Jones was a humble man. He never wanted the spotlight on him. Playing in the Pacific Northwest helped keep said spotlight off of, perhaps, the greatest Left Tackle of all time. In fact, Jones’ time in the NFL was somewhat overshadowed by the growing importance of pass-happy league and the need for superior Tackles. Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden played in the NFL at the same time and received more public notoriety. Jones just went on with his business and helped the Seahawks make their first Super Bowl in franchise history in 2005/06.
Playing next to Steve Hutchinson from 2001-2005, everything came to fruition during that Seahawks run to Super Bowl XL. The left side of the offensive line helped RB Shaun Alexander achieve greatness, as he set the NFL record for touchdowns in one season with 28. Jones was the rock for QB Matthew Hasselbeck (and others) as well. In 5,703 pass attempts while he was on the field, Jones only allowed 23 sacks. He was only called for a holding penalty nine times during his career.
Walter Jones career essentially ended on Thanksgiving Day 2008, when he suffered a knee injury against the Dallas Cowboys. He had microfracture surgery on the knee and tried to come back for the 2009 season, but was unable to do so. His humbleness continued throughout this entire process and in his post-career. When the Seahawks retired his jersey, “Big Walt” wanted the ceremony to be at halftime of the game and his speech lasted just a few minutes. It was never about Walter, it was always about the team.
Here is a highlight reel / tribute video to the great, Walter Jones Jr.
*Jones is officially credited to have played in 13 seasons in the NFL. However, as referenced above, he did not play a down in 2009 for the Seahawks.
I’ve asked Walter McLaughlin - another Seahawks contributor here on Vavel - to provide his favorite memory or memories of Walter Jones given his induction into the Hall of Fame this coming weekend. Here are both of our thoughts:
My favorite memory of Walter Jones was during the 2005 NFL season, when the Seattle Seahawks went 13-3 and advanced all the way to Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson were literally brick walls that year, especially Jones. I don't have the stats, but I'd bet Shawn Alexander ran left the majority of the time, and Jones blazed holes you could drive a truck through, helping Alexander run for 1880 yards and a then-record 27 TD's. Throughout his career, Jones was virtually impenitrable: he gave up just 23 sacks, or about one in every eight games. Two of those sacks were surrendered in his last game as a pro, against DeMarcus Ware (20 sacks that year) and with an injured ankle. Take those out as an abberation, and his numbers are even more impressive.
Offensive linemen don't get noticed much, and when they do it's usually for missing the play or surrendering a sack. Walter Jones was rarely noticed throughout his career, but when he was, it was almost always in a positive way, as in making the Pro Bowl or - very deservedly - the Hall of Fame.
He was truly one of the greats of the game.
I have similar memories and thoughts. The entire run to Super Bowl XL was awesome! Any time the Seahawks called a running play that didn’t go to the left and failed, I got mad. On 3rd/4th and 1 or less, Jones and Hutchinson were unbeatable. The entire stadium knew the Seahawks would run the ball to the left and there was absolutely nothing the defense could do to stop them from getting the first down. It was essentially like playing Madden the video game where you had one play that worked and you went to it over and over again.
You never worried about Jones or the Quarterback’s blind-side when Jones was on the field. He has also had quite the track record in helping the Seahawks since retiring. He raised the 12th man flag prior to the 7-9 Seahawks defeating the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints in 2011 and was an honorary captain for the team at Super Bowl XLVIII. Finally, I’ll never forget the halftime ceremony for his induction into the Ring of Honor. I was ready for a long ceremony and big speech and it lasted all of about 90 seconds.
Thank you “Big Walt”!