Walter Jones is the prime football example of a walking contradiction. A quiet, soft-spoken and humble man that just so happens to be probably the greatest left tackle to ever play the game. A guy that seemed to make it a yearly tradition of holding out of training camp because he hated it, but was a consummate worker and pro that pushed Escalades (literally) as part of his training regimen during the offseason.
Makes pushing defenders 20 yards downfield seem easy.
Jones was a 320-pound behemoth with feet as quick as a wide receiver and the balance of a ballerina. He was that guy that sprung for a 13,000 square-foot home complete with a regulation size football field in the back yard but refused to let MTV's Cribs come publicize its glory. "I just don't see the reason," he said.
I guess he just doesn't need to show off. Funny, coming from the guy that completely demoralized almost everyone he lined up against during his 180 career games, making him one of the easiest choices as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in recent history.
"He dominated people. He dominated every single play and every single game," Ray Roberts stated matter-of-factly.
I can say, without bordering on hyperbole, that had Jones played a more-heralded skill position and dominated to the degree he did at left tackle, he'd probably be up there in name recognition with the Jerry Rices, Michael Irvins, John Elways and Joe Montanas of American Football legend.
"I tell people that the two greatest athletes I ever played with were Deion Sanders and Walter Jones," said Robbie Tobeck, back in 2007.
Hall of Fame Speech
Hall of Fame Speech
Doubt that? I'll quote you stats that have been quoted many times before, but should thus be quoted many times more:
Walter Jones -- playing at a premium position, one of the most highly-coveted, highly-drafted and highly-paid positions in the game -- was called for holding nine times in his 12-year career. That's nine infractions in 5,703 pass plays. Nine. Less than double digits. NINE. IN 5,703 PASS PLAYS. Nine times in 12 years. That's (checks math) less than once per season. In the NFL. That's once every 634 plays.
Jones allowed just 23 sacks during his entire career -- two of which, I should probably point out, came in the final game of his career while lined up against DeMarcus Ware, with Jones fighting a knee injury that eventually required surgery. 23 sacks in 5,703 pass plays. That's less than two per season. This is a guy that seems more nervous for his Hall of Fame induction than he ever did lining up against some of earth's most fearsome athletes at defensive end.
"I don't think he was ever frightened in his whole career," legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd posited. How can you not love this guy?
Jones was completely dominant as a pass protector. He is the definition of a dancing bear. His feet, his reaction time, his power, his balance -- there's just about nothing you could do to get around this person. There's a long-told legend among former Seahawk players that Jones never (never!) lost a one-on-one battle in pass protection drills or scrimmages. He just went out there like a bawse and decided that he'd never let anyone win.
As Mudd put it back in 2010, "He had this phenomenal athleticism. Walt is the kind of guy who does things so easily, it almost looks like he's playing at 75 or 80 percent. Like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, he never really struggles to get his job done, even when he's playing against the top NFL players. I don't think he ever lined up in a game where he thought he was closely matched, athletically, to the guy across from him."
His track record legitimately bears that out.
Of course, Jones wasn't just great as a pass protector, he was brilliant as a run blocker too, leading the way for eight 1,000 yard rushers and best exemplified by Shaun Alexander's 2005 NFL MVP season in which he racked up 1,880 yards and an NFL-record 28 touchdowns. (I also like to think Jones should get partial credit for The BeastQuake -- he was the honorary 12th Man Flag raiser on the night the 7-9 Seahawks stunned the defending champion Saints in the Wild Card round.)
"He was phenomenal," said Mudd. "When you saw him on tape, he was a finisher. He would take guys and just bury them and run right over the top of them. He was very aggressive, spirited, if you will."
(I'm just going to put this here again):
Mike Holmgren once called Jones the best offensive player he ever coached. Think about that while you survey Holmgren's teams that included the 1988-89 Super Bowl Champion 49ers and the 1996 Super Bowl Champion Packers.
Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time All Pro, was selected to the NFL 2000's All-Decade team after starting all 180 games he played in as a pro. He played his last game in 2008 after microfracture surgery on his knee proved impossible to come back from the following season.
Jones announced he was walking away from the game on April 29, 2010, and fittingly, the Seahawks retired his No. 71 the same day and the State of Washington named April 30 Walter Jones Day.
More fittingly, though, Walter Jones will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday.