Walter Jones, once famously described by Warren Sapp as a “man who blocks out the sun,” entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday — as expected — in his first year of eligibility. The 12-year Seahawk (1997-08) becomes the third longtime member of the organization elected and will be inducted into Canton Aug. 2 (see Hall of Famer Walter Jones, A Career Snapshot).
Jones, who protected nine quarterbacks during his tenure with the team, starting with Warren Moon and ending with Matt Hasselbeck, was one of seven inducted Saturday by 46 sports writers, comprising the HOF Selection Committee, which deliberated a record eight hours, 59 minutes before casting ballots.
“It’s been a long journey for me to be at this point,” Jones said after learning of his election. “And to come into the league — all I wanted was to play the game of football. For me to be here now, and for the team that I played on to also be here in the Super Bowl, it’s just the icing on the cake.”
“Jones is arguably the greatest left tackle of all-time, and he probably wasn’t a difficult selection for the Hall of Fame Committee,” said NFL.com. Jones and the other new Hall of Famers were on hand for the announcement of their election at Radio City Music Hall in New York Saturday evening.
Jones joins LB Derrick Brooks, punter Ray Guy, DE Claude Humphrey, WR Andre Reed, DE Michael Strahan and CB/S Aeneas Williams in the Class of 2014.
Jones also joins wide receiver Steve Largent (1995) and DL Cortez Kennedy (2012) as long-tenured former Seahawks in the Hall of Fame. Like Largent and Kennedy, Jones spent his entire career (1997-09) with Seattle.
The newest Hall of Famers were selected from a list of 17 finalists, including 15 modern-era players and two senior candidates who had been determined by the Selection Committee.
Failing to make the Hall of Fame in this year’s voting: WR Tim Brown, RB Jerome Bettis, PK Morten Andersen, LB Kevin Greene, DE Charles Haley, WR Marvin Harrison, S John Lynch, OL Will Shields and ex-coach Tony Dungy and owner Edward DeBartolo.
In order to be elected, a candidate had to receive at least 80 percent of the vote. The Selection Committee did not release percentage totals for individual candidates. It did report that the first cut of modern-era finalists, from 15 to 1o, eliminated Andersen, Brown, DeBartolo, Dungy and Lynch. At that point, the finalists were reduced to five, eliminating Bettis, Greene, Haley, Harrison and Shields.
Guy joins Jan Stenerud as the only kickers elected to the Hall of Fame.
The Seahawks selected Jones out of Florida State with the sixth overall selection in the 1997 NFL draft after trading up with Tampa Bay to land him. Jones earned the starting left tackle spot during rookie training camp and received his first national recognition in October that season when he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Month.
At the end of his first year, Jones was a pick for multiple all-rookie teams as he helped quarterback Moon notch his ninth Pro Bowl appearance.
Jones made his first Pro Bowl team following the 1999 season, becoming the first offensive lineman in Seahawks history chosen as an All-Star. That was the first of a record nine Pro Bowl honors for Jones, who earned his first, first-team All-Pro designation in 2001. Jones earned All-Pro honors five more times (2002, 2004-07).
Jones became a major part of Shaun Alexander’s 2005 Most Valuable Player award, helping spring the running back for 1,880 yards and a league-record 28 touchdowns as Seattle led the NFL with 452 points.
In addition to playing 180 regular-season games, second-most in Seahawks history, Jones started a team-record 10 playoff games, including the 2005 NFC Championship and Super Bowl XL.
A year after his 2009 retirement, Jones was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
“He was a great teammate,” said former Seattle quarterback Hasselbeck. “Really fun, one of the best laughs of any locker room I’ve ever been in. He talks a lot more now than he did when he was a player. I think all of us feel really fortunate to have gotten to play with Walter, to be his teammate. Honestly, I’m not just saying this, he was one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
Also on Saturday, the NFL handed out its 2013 player awards. Peyton Manning, who will lead the Denver Broncos against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday, was named the Associated Press Most Valuable Player and its Offensive Player of the Year.
Two Seahawks, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, were candidates for Defensive Player of the Year, which went to went to LB Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers. Kuechly received 19 votes from a panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Thomas received 7½ votes and Sherman 4.