Walter Jones’ Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend will be a family affair.
In addition to having his 14-year-old son, Walterius, present him on Saturday night, Jones also has rented a bus that will transport 75 family members to the festivities in Canton, Ohio.
But then that’s hardly surprising. Family always has come before football for Jones. The most-decorated player in Seahawks history was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times during his 13-season NFL career, and each time he turned the trip to Hawaii into a family reunion.
“They’ll be there in droves,” Jones said with a laugh. “So you’ll be able to say, ‘That’s Walt’s family right there.’ But it’s going to be cool. My family has been there for me from the start, so they should share this moment with me.”
That’s where Walterius comes in, and Jones having his son present him is part of a family-affair trend this year. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks will be presented by his son, Decalon. He and Walterius will be the 25th and 26th sons to present their fathers. Former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams will be presented by his father, Lawrence; while Cheyenne Humphrey-Robinson will present her father, former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey.
The timing of Jones’ election to the Pro Football Hall of Fames comes at an optimum period in his life. His children – Walterius and his twin sister, Waleria – are old enough that they will remember this weekend for the rest of their lives; and his mother, Earline, also will be there to see her son achieve the pinnacle of his profession.
“It’s amazing for me to have this honor come at this time,” Jones said.
Walterius was with his father when he was elected to the Hall that Saturday night in February before the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
“Walterius was there with me when I got the phone call (in their Manhattan hotel room),” Jones said. “It was almost like, ‘OK, you’re doing it.’ I don’t think it was a question. I had never sat down with him and said, ‘Do you want to do it?’
“But once I had that conversation with him – ‘Do you want to do it?’ – that’s when I felt better. Because I felt like I was saying, ‘OK, you’re going to do it because you were with me that night.’ Once I did ask him, he said, ‘Who else are you going to have do it?’ So he was already thinking he was going to do it.”
Jones arrived in this world in a big way on Jan. 19, 1974 – 11 pounds, 15 ounces. “Big and beautiful,” is the way Beverly describe the newborn Walter Jones to the Seattle Times in 2006.
Saturday night, Jones will make an arrival of a different kind as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. He was elected in his first year of eligibility and will become only the third career-long Seahawk to have his bust added to those in Canton – along with Steve Largent (Class of 1995) and Cortez Kennedy (Class of 2012).
And there’s a lot that comes with this highest of honors: a five-hour meeting at the Hall of Fame to discuss everything that goes into this weekend; the sending of more than 200 invitations; the planning of the post-ceremony party; the writing of the speech the usually man-of-very-few-words Jones will deliver; and, of course, that procurement of the bus that will transport the Jones’ contingent to Canton.
“Now, after all of that, is the time where you can kind of reflect on it and go, ‘Man, it’s going to be amazing,’ ” Jones said.
Tom Lovat, who was Jones’ line coach from 1999-2003, says one of the highlights for him this weekend will be, “Watching Walter actually say more than five words.”
Ah, that speech. Jones has been working on it and reworking it. Adding some here. Deleting some there. Refining it, just as he honed his already ample game during his career with the Seahawks.
“That’s when I told him, ‘If we go out there and wing it, we make everybody look bad.’ ”
And that’s not the way Walter Jones does things. He fashioned his Hall of Fame career by never winging it. So why would he start now that he has reached the ultimate individual goal in any player’s career?
“If I just winged it, I’d be done in like a minute or two,” Jones said with a laugh. “But you reflect on everything and you want to make sure you thank the right people.”
For Walter Jones, that will start with his family.