It was a fall Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field and the Seahawks were in action.
As NFL commentators are prone toward doing, a discussion began on which player on the field had achieved the highest ability level. They began discussing the most valuable player in action from both squads combined.
Such discussions so often boil down to the players who throw or run with the ball, the players who score the points. This discussion was different in that it was soon agreed that the most valuable player on either team that day was someone battling in the trenches, not a regular headliner involved with high-level point production.
Once that Seahawk left tackle Walter Jones’ name was mentioned, the discussion level broadened. It went beyond the players on both teams and to the very best players employing their talents in the NFL.
Jones’ name remained at the top of the list. The commentators explained their reasoning. The discussion point came down to which player in the league dominated his position to the greatest extent. It was soon conceded that there was no one close to Walter Jones.
The point was next magnified by showing Jones in action. The close-up revealed a wide area on the left side being cleared out by the powerful tackle. It was revealed that this play was typical of the way things went on the left side of the Seahawk line. Jones was deemed the perfect player, the NFL’s offensive tackle supreme.
His recent retirement makes it an auspicious occasion to provide a retrospective on an extraordinary career about a gifted athlete who mastered the tackle position.
Jones attended Holmes Community College for two seasons. He was named Mississippi Junior College Player of the Year by the Jackson Clarion-Leger in 1994. He played both offensive tackle and tight end, allowing only one sack in two seasons.
Bobby Bowden, who then had one of the greatest programs in college football at Florida State, noticed and recruited Jones. He had to redshirt the 1995 season. In his 1996 junior season Jones started 11 games, gave up only one sack, and earned Second Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
Jones was a starter for the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl against archrival Florida coached by Steve Spurrier.
He decided to skip his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He was drafted sixth overall by the Seahawks.
Jones started every game he played in from his rookie season until his pro career ended after he was placed on injured reserve October 28, 2009.
With his take-charge manner at his position and opening of holes, Jones became a running back's friend. It started with three 1,000 yard seasons from Ricky Watters from 1998 to 2000. He then paved the way for Shaun Alexander’s success as the Seahawks won the 2005 NFC Championship and played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2006 Super Bowl.
The Alexander period was marked by brilliance on the left side of the line as Jones was complemented by the efforts of Steve Hutchinson, who was drafted from Michigan University and played five seasons next to Jones from 2001 to 2005.
Jones was called the best tackle in football by John Madden. Madden also labeled him as one of the greatest tackles ever to play the game.
Once he quit football, Jones’ No. 71 was retired. Governor Chris Gregoire declared April 30 as “Walter Jones Day” in the state of Washington.
There is but one Seattle Seahawks-specific Hall of Fame member in Canton, Ohio: wide receiver Steve Largent. Other Hall of Famers with Seahawk experience such as Warren Moon spent most of their NFL careers with other teams.
It is time that Largent has company. That would be Walter Jones.