seahawks

Seahawks All Access: Welcome to the Hall of Fame Mr. Jones

Walter Jones elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Aug. 2, 2014, Seattle Seahawks legend Walter Jones will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jones will become the third Seahawk enshrined in the sacred Halls.  Only one other Seahawk has done it in his first year of eligibility (Steve Largent, Class of 1995).

Welcome to the Hall, Mr. Jones! (Photo courtesy of Seahawks.com)

Welcome to the Hall, Mr. Jones! (Photo courtesy of Seahawks.com)

In order to draft Jones with the sixth pick in the 1997 NFL draft, the Seahawks had to trade a first and a third-round selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After 13 seasons and 180 career starts, Mr. Jones is set to become the first player from his draft class to be selected for the game’s ultimate honor.

When my editor asked me to write this piece, I thought about how I wanted to write it.  Do I make a list of all of his accomplishments, or do I tell the story about how much I enjoyed watching him play and how blessed the 12th man was to witness greatness every Sunday?

Then I got an idea: Why not ask him if he’d be willing to do an interview?  If he agreed, I could let him tell his side of the story.

Who better to take you behind the scenes than the man himself?

So I asked, and he obliged.

The answers to the questions are paraphrased with the addition of direct quotes.

NWSB: How old were you when you became interested in football and what was the driving force?

Jones indicated that he had three older brother who played football before him.  His second oldest brother was a good high school receiver before breaking his leg while playing.

At the time, the younger Jones was in elementary school and his mom was raising eight children on her own.  They didn’t have many resources, but she always found a way to make it work.  Walter could see that the broken leg added to the struggles of daily life and never gave playing much thought after that experience.

That was until the he was in ninth grade when the head football coach asked him why a young man of his size wasn’t playing football.  Jones had friends on the team and really didn’t have a good reason, so the coach offered to show him the ropes.

Jones liked what he saw and what he heard.  Especially when the coach told him, “You are a million dollars walking around.”  Although Jones didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation, it sparked his interest.

After being introduced to the game, he needed to ask him mom for permission.  Jones told me that his mother never pushed her children into anything that they didn’t want to do but supported them in everything that they wanted to do.

Seattle landed Walter Jones with the sixth pick in the 1997 draft. (Photo courtesy of Seahawks.com)

Seattle landed Walter Jones with the sixth pick in the 1997 draft. (Photo courtesy of Seahawks.com)

Thankfully, despite what she went to with Walter’s older brother, football was no different.

Once he had his mom in his corner he started playing the game.  He viewed the game as “a way out of my small town.  A way to get out and take care of my family.”

On draft day who was it who called you from the Seahawks?

A minute before the Seahawks’ selection, Head Coach “Dennis Erickson” called Jones and asked him if he would like to be a Seattle Seahawk.  Jones responded, “I would love to be a Seahawk!”

Jones had a party with friends and family and everyone started crying tears of joy after he received the phone call.  His party was cut short because he had to catch a flight to Seattle right away.

Were there any teams that you were hoping would draft you?

“All I wanted to do was get in the league.”

What was your impression of Seattle when you came out for your pre-draft visit?

“I came in and showed ability, interviewed and didn’t feel like that is who would pick me.”

He indicated that he never had time to experience Seattle on that first trip.

What was your impression of Seattle after being drafted?

Jones just focused on the game.  There were people who took care of his housing and everything that he needed so that he was able to focus on the game itself.  After a few days in Seattle, he went home to Alabama but had to return the next weekend for practice.

At the time, Walter was focused on “football, football, football,” but after his rookie season he was able to get out and enjoy the city and now refers it as a “great city” and it has become his “second home.”

Which player/players took you under their wing during your rookie season?

“The offensive line.  (Howard) Ballard, (Kevin) Mawae, (Pete) Kendall, (James) Atkins.”

They told him what to do on a daily basis and taught him how to be a professional.  Jones used to watch Ballard to see “how it was done.”  Walter referred to Howard Ballard as a “pro’s pro.”

The offensive line would meet for breakfast every Saturday morning at Brown Bag in Kirkland and they formed a tight nit group.

When did the thought that you may someday be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

“The ninth or 10th year you know you’re getting validation.  I thought maybe I had a chance.  When Cortez (Kennedy) made it he said, ‘Walter Jones, you’ll be the next one’ and it really hit home.”

How did you find out?

“I got a call and was told to be in the hotel at 5:00 and wait for a call between 5:00-5:45.”

He waited until about 5:30 before he received the phone call from the President of the Hall of Fame.

Walter Jones told me about 4:00 ET he called his mom and had a conversation.  About 30 minutes prior to the 5:00 time window opening thoughts of doubt started to creep into his mind.

He had brought his son all the way to New York City and didn’t want to disappoint him.

That is a heavy burden even for a man who spent most of his adult life protecting the blind side of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

What went through your mind when you received that phone call?

“I hugged my son and we both cried.  We were elated.”  Then he thought, “I did it the right way.  I did it through hard work and dedication.  I AM A HALL OF FAMER!”

Space Needle Seattle 12th Man

Walter Jones is a 12th Man just like the rest of us, calling Seattle his “second home.”

At that point in the interview, he said that he wanted to thank all the fans, especially those who have watched and supported him from day one.

Then he said, “It feels good to do it for those around me and for the fans.”

How does it feel preparing for the induction ceremony?

He said that it is surreal and mentioned that he has already been measured for his gold jacket, his ring and his bust.

Do you feel like the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl the day after you were selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee stole some of your moment?  Did you feel like you had to share your spotlight?

“I’m a fan.  It made the moment even more special.  It was great!”

He told me that he was able to “Celebrate with the team” after the game.

What are your thoughts on the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl?

“The Lombardi is in Seattle!  So proud of those guys.”

Then mentioned that it was “a fairytale ending” to his weekend.

Walter Jones is a 12th man through and through.  He may not have been born into it like a lot of us, yet after giving the team and this city 13 years of blood sweat and tears his love of the team is every bit as strong as your or mine.

That is why I always say that he is the only person who has two numbers hanging from the rafters in CenturyLink Field.  He may have worn 71 on the field, but the number 12 is in his heart.

Congratulations, Walter Jones!  You are the epitome of what a first ballot Hall of Famer is supposed to be.  You gave us all you had and we appreciate what you did for us.  On Aug. 2, you will take your rightful place among the legends of the game.

Go, Walter Jones! Go, Seahawks!

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About Brett Bivens

Born and raised in Spokane. Moved to Seattle in 2006. A Seahawks fan since he can remember, Seahawks season ticket holder for 5 years!. He blogs, tweets and bleeds blue and green. 12th Man For Life! Connect with Brett today!
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