Walter Jones: Countdown to Canton with Mack Strong

Posted Jul 23, 2014

Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 2.

Mack Strong is not easily impressed.

Playing 14 seasons for the Seahawks will do that, especially after joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 1993 and spending his first season on the practice squad. So will blocking for a trio of 1,000-yard rushers – Chris Warren, Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander. And then there’s the fact that Strong played in 201 games, the second-highest total in franchise history.

But even the player who was voted the fullback on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team was impressed the first time he saw Walter Jones.

“When they had one-on-one blocking drills during training camp, we would always watch that when we got a chance,” said Strong, who was in his fifth season when the Seahawks made Jones the sixth pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. “You would watch Walter, and just his feet, his hands, his quickness, his power. I mean, everybody he went up against they didn’t get an inch.

“They barely got off the line of scrimmage before he was attacking them. To me, that’s when I first said, ‘OK, this guy is different.’ And Walter was different than any offensive lineman I’ve ever seen. From the first time I saw him in that drill at his first training camp, the thought was, ‘He could be great, if he just stays healthy.’ And he is, and now he’s going into the Hall of Fame.”

The man most people call Big Walt or just Walt will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 2. To commemorate his latest – and greatest – football achievement, is asking those who played with him, coached him and knew him best for their thoughts on Jones. Today, it’s Strong.

The connection: As Strong mentioned, he played with a lot of linemen during his long tenure with the Seahawks, including four of the five who joined him on the 35th Anniversary team – left guard Steve Hutchinson, center Robbie Tobeck, right tackle Howard Ballard and Jones. But things changed in 1997 when Jones arrived.

“I remember when Tom Lovat was here,” Strong said of the Seahawks’ offensive line coach from 1999-2003. “During installation, Tom would go through it and tell everybody what they were supposed to do on a certain play. He’d give all these details. When he got to Walter, he’d just say, ‘Walt, just block the defensive end all day.’

“It was like the quickest coaching point ever, and it was over. Then he could turn his attention to the other 10 guys. Because with Walter, 99 times out of 100 you knew he was getting it done.”

Jones also was the kind of player who made those around him better. In 2005, when Jones was voted to the sixth of his club-record nine Pro Bowls, he was joined by five offensive teammates – Hutchinson, Tobeck, Alexander, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and Strong.

“You’re talking about a guy that while he was a quiet guy, he also was just a fierce competitor,” Strong said. “And that embodies Walter Jones.”

The congratulations: “Man, Big Walt, enjoyed it, you deserve it,” said Strong, who is unable to attend Jones’ induction ceremony. “He will go down as the best left tackle to ever play the game.”

In closing: “We all knew that we had a pretty good team in 2005,” Strong said of the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl team. “But on a team full of good players, Walter was the best.”