RENTON, Wash. (AP) — As Walter Jones went through names to give his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he constantly came back to his son Walterius.
His son was with him in New York during Super Bowl week when Jones found out he’d be honored in his first year of eligibility, and just the third player having spent their entire career with Seattle Seahawks to be inducted. It felt only right to have the 14-year-old give the speech.
Talk about a unique summer vacation project.
“When I asked him if he wanted to present me he was like, ‘Well, there’s nobody else that’s going to do it,'” Jones said. “He’s been with me throughout this whole process, so he was an easy answer to present me.”
Regarded as one of the game’s best offensive tackles ever, Jones will get his gold jacket Saturday night and add to a year that has seen the Seahawks reach the pinnacle of the NFL. The party in New York in February didn’t stop with Jones being voted into the Hall of Fame on his first try. That was just the beginning. A day later, he was at MetLife Stadium to watch Seattle’s 43-8 rout of Denver to claim its first championship.
It was a moment Jones was hoping to experience as a player in February 2006 when Seattle reached its only other Super Bowl, losing to Pittsburgh. A championship is about the only thing missing from Jones’ extensive resume.
“When I came into the league, I wasn’t thinking about, ‘Man, I want to be in the Hall of Fame.’ As you play the game, you watch guys. You say, ‘That’s the way I want to play the game of football,'” Jones said. “For me, it’s all about respect. You always go back to the word ‘respect.’ Even guys that don’t play the game of football – or just an average fan – when they watch the game of football, they can say, ‘OK, I respect what Walter’s doing out there.'”
Jones was deemed special when he was selected with the No. 6 overall pick of the 1997 draft coming out of Florida State. He was a unique combination of size and power, but also speed and fluidity for a man who stood at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds.
His offseason workouts became folklore, pushing Cadillac Escalades as part of his regimen — and usually during some sort of contract dispute. Yet he showed up for every season opener, whether he was unhappy with his contract or not.
Jones was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He was a four-time All-Pro. Mike Holmgren, who coached the Seahawks from 1999-2008, once called Jones the best offensive player he has ever coached. It’s a heady statement considering Holmgren coached Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Steve Young and Jerry Rice during his career.
Jones wanted to be like Anthony Munoz. And like Munoz before him, Jones became the standard for the next generation of offensive linemen.
“I think it’s a situation of setting the standard for how you want to play the game of football,” Jones said. “For me, I tried to do that every time I stepped on the football field. It just validates the things you did on the football field. So when people see you now, people say, ‘Oh, that’s the Hall of Famer Walter Jones.’ That’s something that makes you say I did it the right way,” Jones said. “When young kids go look at film, your name is talked about. So I think that’s something that has changed.
“From Day 1 when I got in the league, I wanted to establish the standard that I set. I wanted to be a guy that when you talk about offensive linemen, I wanted my name to come up.”
Seattle’s coaches once put together the numbers that helped state the dominant level at which Jones played: He blocked for more than 5,500 pass plays in his career and gave up just 23 sacks and was called for holding just nine times in 180 career games — all starts.
Jones is revered in Seattle in a way usually reserved for skill position players. It’s a statue of Jones that stands outside the Seahawks-themed bar at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. His No. 71 was retired the day he retired, while Steve Largent (No. 80) and Cortez Kennedy (No. 96) had to wait for their entry to Canton before their numbers were raised.
“Getting a gold jacket and to be a part of that team, man, it’s just amazing,” Jones said. “Then to be a part of Seattle, it’s just amazing to represent the city of Seattle, man. It’s just amazing. I started there and I ended there. It’s a lot of stuff that goes on.”
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