If it does indeed take one to know one, than Walter Jones is a Hall of Fame player.
Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle during his 12-season career with the Seahawks, is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2014 will be announced next Saturday in New York, on the eve of the Super Bowl XLVIII matchup between the Seahawks and Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium.
Especially if you ask Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy, who already are in the Hall of Fame and like Jones played their entire careers with the Seahawks; and Warren Moon, also a Hall of Famer who played with the Seahawks for two seasons and now is the analyst for the team’s radio broadcasts.
“Absolutely,” said Largent, the Seahawks’ all-time leading receiver and a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 1995. “Walter was just such a steady player and so consistent, and he played at such a high level.”
Offered Moon: “No question about it; Walter is a no-brainer. He’s one the best left tackles to play during his era. He was All-Pro many times. He was a Pro Bowler many times. He did a great job of protecting Matt Hasselbeck, and that left side of the line was one of the reasons why Shaun Alexander had all the success he had running the football. Walter was quiet, but he just did his job. And he was one of the most dominating players at that position for that 10-12 year period.”
Like Largent, Moon was voted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, as part of the Class of 2006 – when the Seahawks were in Detroit for their Super Bowl XL matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kennedy is the most-decorated defensive player in franchise history, but the former defensive tackle who was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 also had to wait his turn to become part of the Class of 2012. He says the wait made the honor even more meaningful.
“Yes, most definitely, Walter belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Kennedy said. “And hopefully they get it right the first time, the first ballot. But I like Walt’s attitude, meaning that he’s so very humble he knows what it means to be a Hall of Famer and he knows how many people are trying to get in the Hall of Fame. So I hope he gets in this first time, which I think he will. But if he doesn’t, he will be a Hall of Famer.”
Next question: What made Jones such a dominating player? In addition to his franchise-record nine Pro Bowl berths, he also was voted All-Pro six times and selected to the NFL Team of the Decade for the 2000s.
Largent retired after the 1989 season, eight years before Jones came to the Seahawks as the sixth pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. But he appreciated Jones’ game from afar.
“The thing that jumped out about Walter was his consistency,” Largent said. “He played for a long time, but at a very high level. Play after play, game after game, season after season, he was the best player at one of the most difficult positions to play.”
Sounds like Largent, who was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches when he retired.
“It’s easier to judge a wide receiver, because we have all those statistics that can be weighed and debated,” Largent said. “There aren’t a lot of statistics for linemen.”
But Jones graded out at a Hall of Fame level in those few categories. In 5,703 pass plays, Jones allowed 23 sacks – or one every 248 pass plays. In 12 seasons, which included 180 starts that is second only to Largent (197) in franchise history, Jones was penalized for holding nine times.
“He was a bad boy,” Kennedy said. “You talk about Beast Mode with Marshawn (Lynch), Walter Jones was a beast. He’s the best lineman I’ve seen, ever.”
If the Hall does call next Saturday, Jones has an idea what to expect during the induction ceremony in August, because he was there when Kennedy went through the process in Canton, Ohio.
“That was the first time. I had never been,” Jones said. “I got the invite by Tez and got a chance to go and do the tour and stuff. I thought it was amazing. Now all I can do is wait to hopefully be on that stage soon.”
That trip also planted the what-if seed for Jones.
“I thought about it. I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I didn’t say I did,” Jones said. “Even with Tez, what he said in his speech that I would be up there, so you kind of think about it from that day on. And you think about your speech and what would you say. I think a lot of people are going to be looking forward to that speech to see can I talk for that long. So it’s stuff you think about.”
Patience always was one of Jones’ biggest virtues. As a blocker. As a person. As a consummate professional.
“But you can’t really put it into perspective until your name is called,” he said. “Then you can put everything together. So that’s basically what I have to do. I think about it all the time. But let the fans and family be convinced that it’s going to happen. I did it the right way, and I think that’s what makes it special.”
Walter Jones was a special player. So special, that he is worthy of first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame.