CANTON, Ohio – Family means everything to Walter Jones. Always has. Always will.
And now his already large biological family is being augmented as the Seahawks’ nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle is being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“My family is here, and all my friends re here,” Jones said Friday afternoon during an interview session – the first stop in what will be a busy couple of days as Jones will get his Gold Jacket during a banquet Friday night, be featured in a parade through the streets of this quaint community on Saturday morning and, finally, be inducted into the Hall on Saturday night.
“The most important thing to me is my family, so it’s going to be a great moment.”
Jones already has the largest contingent of family members at this weekend’s festivities – 75 strong, including his mother, Earline; and kids, Walterius and Waleria. It’s a “family” that only got larger as he played at Florida State University and the Seahawks.
But that “family” still is growing when you include the other six members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 – Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Michael Strahan, Andre Reed and Aeneas Williams. Add the other 280 whose busts already are in the Hall and, well, Jones realizes how blessed he is to be part of this establishment that salutes the elite of the game he played so well for 12 seasons.
“It’s been fun for my family, especially my son. Here’s been with me throughout this whole process,” Jones said of Walterius, who was with his father when he got word that he had been voted into the Hall the night before the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII and will present him during the Saturday night ceremony.
“For him to be a part of this, especially with the Class, he’s already calling them uncles. So that’s amazing for him. Just to get a chance to have something like this that will be a part of his life forever. He’ll always be a part of this Class, too.”
Just like Jones’ family has always been a part of his life – no matter how large and far-reaching it gets.
“Everybody knows the most important thing to me is family,” he said.
“Walter is one of those guys when he came into the league everybody said he’s got the credentials to go all the way – to get the team to the Super Bowl, which he did in 2005; and to make it to the Hall of Fame,” Largent said.
“Walter is just the perfect combination of a guy with the size and speed, the weight that you want in an offensive tackle. But more than that, he’s really a guy that is a real man of character. That’s a good combination to make a Hall of Fame player, and that’s exactly what Walter is.”
The feelings are mutual, especially after Jones had lunch with Largent and Cortez Kennedy – the other career-long Seahawk is in the Hall of Fame.
“I got a chance to hang out with Tez and Steve today,” Jones said. “So that was amazing, just to sit with those guys. I really never got a chance just to sit down and have lunch with Steve. So that was awesome, just to have laughs with him.”
Brooks, a linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being Jones’ teammate at Florida State, also appreciates sharing this weekend with Jones.
“It’s special,” Brooks said. “I’ve talked to Walter more in the last six months than we have in 12 years. But it is extremely special. Obviously Walter and I share some history – this being the second time that two guys from the same college went in on the first ballot. And we wear that proudly.
“I’m excited to see him enjoy this process because he’s a man of a very few words but a whole lot of action. So to see him enjoy this along with me, I can’t say how excited I am about it.”
The reunion started that Saturday night before the Super Bowl in February when it was announced that Jones and Brooks were members of the Class of 2014, and it is continuing this weekend.
“Walter was the first guy I hugged when I got in the room in New York,” Brooks said. “And we’re still hugging each other in celebration.”