Walter Jones showed up in Seattle for his rookie press conference wearing a gray sweatshirt, work boots and a pair of blue jeans that had one of those loops on the pants leg, where carpenters holster their hammer.
His answers were brief and simple and humble, as he let the quality of his play speak for itself.
Saturday afternoon, in Canton, Ohio, he’ll wear the traditional gold blazer of a newly inducted member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The progress is symbolic of Jones’ growth.
For 12 seasons, Jones hammered defenders with such consistency and dominance that he constructed a career that earned him first-ballot Hall of Fame recognition. He was named to nine Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro four times.
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Jones was the best player on the Seahawks the second he showed up as a rookie, and played so well that he made his job look easy. In those 12 seasons, he was whistled for just nine holding calls.
This week, during a teleconference regarding his induction, Jones produced more quotes than he shared with us during all the genial but understated interviews in his entire career with the Seahawks.
Jones was quiet and confident for all his seasons in the league, but he conceded this week that he’s “so nervous, man,” about the speech he’ll make at Canton.
“You try to prepare what people are going to say and how the fans are going to react to certain things you say,” Jones said. “I think it’s going to be nervousness all around. Getting a gold jacket and to be a part of (the Hall), man, it’s just amazing. It’s just amazing to represent the city of Seattle. I started there and I ended there.”
Interestingly, Jones is the third Hall of Famer who played all his games as a Seahawk, joining Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy.
Jones’ son Walterius will introduce him at the ceremony. “When I asked him if he wanted to present me, he was like, ‘Well, there’s nobody else that’s going to do it.’ He’s been with me throughout this whole process, so he was an easy answer to present me.”
When Jones was named an inductee in February, any number of those who played against him commented on his unrelenting dominance. Former New England Patriot Willie McGinest, a linebacker for 15 seasons, raved that Jones was a 325 pounder who had feet that were as quick and nimble as a defensive back.
Former Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown talked of how Jones dominated him the first time he faced off against him in practice — and Brown was coming off a Pro Bowl. “He was the most athletic big man I ever played against,” Brown said.
And former Seahawks receiver Mike Pritchard addressed a part of Jones that had nothing to do with making the Hall of Fame, but rather spoke a great deal about his role as a teammate. “He was such a wonderful guy and a quiet soul,” Pritchard said. “He did his work, didn’t complain, and focused on what he had to do.”
Jones explained this week what the enshrinement meant to him.
“For me, it’s all about respect,” he said. “You always go back to the word ‘respect.’ Even guys that don’t play the game of football — or just an average fan — when they watch the game of football, they can say ‘OK, I respect what Walter’s doing out there.’ … I know that I did it the right way. I competed every time I stepped on the football field, I gave everything I had to this game of football.”
Asked to look back at his career, Jones thought that the highlight came in the very act of being drafted, and just becoming a part of the NFL. So he doesn’t look back to see one big game after another, but rather just being consistent every time he took the field.
And now, he’s grown to the point where he’s comfortable in the face of interviews and heavy media attention.
“You’re just trying to keep your composure,” he said. “You don’t know how the emotions are going to be. Let me just get through this weekend. Hopefully I’ll have a great time and everything that I’ve done on the football field will be put into this one moment. I’m ready for it.”