Less than a week from now, Walter Jones will finally get to do something that he has been preparing for most of his adult life. Jones Saturday will don a distinctive gold jacket, take possession of a bronze bust cast in his likeness, and assume his rightful place among the immortals of the sport when he is enshrined, with six others, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
“I’m so ready, man. I’ve been working on this, and some great people have helped prepare me for this weekend,” Jones said Monday during his last conference call with Seattle media before his big day. “Nervous? I’m so nervous. You just hope that it all comes together. You just don’t know how the emotion is going to go. Hopefully, we can go out there and have a good time and enjoy it.”
In addition to Jones, the premier offensive tackle of his generation who spent his career (1997-08), with the Seahawks, the class includes Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. The class was elected in January, and Jones will enter in his first year of eligibility, one of two players from the class (also Brooks) so honored.
Jones came to the Seahawks as the sixth overall pick in the 1997 draft and started every game he played (180) during his 12-year career. During that time, Jones was called for holding nine times and allowed 23 sacks, incredible statistics for a left tackle.
The Seahawks ranked in the top 10 in total offense six times during Jones’ career. He led the way for eight 1,000-yard rushers and seven 3,000-yard passers. As a result, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Jones was named to a Seahawks-record nine Pro Bowls. After his career ended, he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Most Hall of Famers are introduced – or presented – during the enshrinement ceremony by a former coach or teammate. Jones will be presented by his 14-year-old son, Walterius, who spent two months honing, without Walter’s oversight or editing, the speech he will deliver via video.
“I wanted to see it but they wouldn’t let me,” said Jones. “My son is doing the speech on his own. It must be okay because nobody has called to say we have to do it again.”
In the seven months since his election to the Hall of Fame, Jones had time to reflect on his enshrinement and what it means to him.
“It validates everything you did on the field,” he said. “It makes me feel good. When I came into the league I wasn’t thinking about being in the Hall of Fame. I just wanted to compete every time on the field, and I did, and that feels good. I wanted to be a guy who did it the right way. I hope that I inspire someone to play the game of football the way I played.
“I wanted to be a guy who, when you talk about offensive linemen, my name came up. I wanted to be part of that conversation. Now, it’s just amazing to represent the city of Seattle. Everything started there and everything ended there for me. So this is exciting for me and my family and friends and I am really looking forward to it.”
Asked what he considers his greatest moment or moments as a Seahawk, Jones said there were several, but listed these highlights: Selection by the Seahawks at No. 6 overall in 1997; a Nov. 11, 2001 game at Husky Stadium in which he helped spring Shaun Alexander for 266 yards and three touchdowns against Oakland; helping Alexander rush for 1,880 yards and 28 TDs in 2005; and Seattle’s NFC Championship game victory over the Carolina Panthers Jan. 22, 2006, when the Seahawks earned their first Super Bowl appearance.
“To be part of that was very special,” Jones said.
The Hall of Fame flew Jones to Cleveland several weeks ago for a “break the ice,” as Jones described it, orientation weekend. He got to mingle with about 100 other Hall of Famers, sign autographs and pose for photographs. As for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Museum in Canton, Jones visited the facility twice.
“It’s an amazing place,” Jones said. “And I’m very humbled to be a part of that.”
Jones will be the third former full-time Seahawks player enshrined in Canton, following WR Steve Largent (1995) and DE Cortez Kennedy (2012).