Walter Jones: Countdown to Canton with Robbie Tobeck

Posted Jul 21, 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.

When Walter Jones is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 2, Robbie Tobeck not only will be in Canton, Ohio, he’ll likely be in the center of everything.

And that’s only fitting, since Tobeck was the starting center on the Seahawks’ offensive line for six seasons when Jones was at his dominating best as the premiere left tackle in the game.

“When the announcement comes out (on Feb. 1), you send him a message, you call him – ‘Hey, congratulations. Well deserved. All that stuff,’ ” said Tobeck, the starting center from 2001-06 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2005 – when the Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

“But I feel like going to the ceremony is my way of honoring Walt. What am I going to give him? I’m not going to give him anything he doesn’t already have. So what I can give him is I can show up and be there for his moment.”

Just like Jones showed up so many times in so many big moments for the Seahawks during his 12-season career that included a club-record nine Pro Bowl berths, six All-Pro selections, a place on the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 2000s and being ranked as the best player in the entire league in 2005 by The Sporting News. Since his retirement in 2010, Jones’ No. 71 has been retired and he will become the 11th member of the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor this season.

Guards Steven Hutchinson and Chris Gray and former line coach Tom Lovat also are planning to be in Canton for Big Walt’s biggest moment.

“It’s important that we’re there to honor him,” Tobeck said.

The man most people call Big Walt or just Walt will join Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy as the only career-long Seahawks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 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’ induction. Today, it’s Tobeck.

The connection: By the time Tobeck signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in 2000, Jones was in his fourth season, had been voted to the first of his nine Pro Bowls and was just reaching his prime. The 2001 NFL Draft delivered Hutchinson, who stepped in at left guard – between Jones and Tobeck – to form a left side that would become second to none as the Seahawks advanced to the playoffs four consecutive seasons and won three NFC West titles in a row from 2003-06.

“I knew of him. I knew Walt was a good player,” said Tobeck, who played his first six NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. “I didn’t know how great of a player he was until I got to Seattle. It was during that first offseason (2000), just working out with him and seeing him, that I realized the type of athlete he was. You just go, ‘Wholly cow, this guy is really something.’

“Then you get him on the field and he’s every bit as good on the field as he was in the weight room. That’s when you go, ‘This guy is a freak.’ Then you see him in games, and he just never got beat. That’s when you start thinking, ‘Hey, this guy is a Hall of Fame player.’ ”

How good were Jones and Hutchinson as a left-side tandem? In 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for a league-leading and franchise-record 1,880 yards, 19 of his then-NFL record 27 rushing touchdowns came on the same play while running behind the building blocks that were Jones and Hutchinson.

The congratulations: “There was a level of greatness in Walt that few achieve,” Tobeck said. “Everyone aspires to get to the Hall of Fame, but only a few can get there. And it’s well deserved in his case.”

In closing: “Walt could have been a really good player just getting out of bed in the morning. But he wanted to be great,” Tobeck said. “He didn’t talk about it, but it’s what you have inside of you. I think that’s what all the great players have – they have something inside of them. That’s one of the things that always impressed me about Walt.”