Every NFL quarterback needs a blindside protector.
Depending on which arm he throws with, the right or left tackle position is imperative for the health of the QB.
However, just like the never-ending search for a franchise quarterback, good tackles are also hard to find.
NFL history is filled with signal callers who had short careers because they spent a large chunk of their time lying on the turf after a sack.
That wasn’t the case for the Seattle Seahawks between 1997 and 2008.
During that span, Walter Jones lined up at tackle and kept his quarterbacks relatively clean.
Happy 47th Birthday to Walter Jones!
— Sports ON Tap Seattle (@SONTSeattle) January 19, 2021
In his 12 years as a Seahawk, Jones gave up just 23 total sacks and was called for holding only nine times.
It’s safe to say that Seattle struck gold when the franchise drafted Jones.
He was big at 6’5 and 325 pounds, but Jones was athletic and quick, which ensured that even the NFL’s best edge rushers were stymied.
Often considered one of the best players in the league, Jones was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
This is the story of Walter Jones.
Big Kid in Alabama
Walter Jones Jr., was born on January 19, 1974, in Aliceville, Alabama as the seventh of eight children.
Happy Birthday to Hall of Famer, 6x All-Pro, 9x Pro Bowler, and Ring of Honor member, Seahawks Legend Walter Jones. pic.twitter.com/T3outa1AFR
— Seahawks Legends (@SeahawksLegends) January 19, 2019
Jones’s parents separated when he was in elementary school and the family had trouble making ends meet.
“We didn’t have much, but we enjoyed our family,” Walter Jr. said.
Walter’s older brother, Danny, was into sports and played football until breaking his leg competing in the sport.
Because of Danny’s injury, there wasn’t a push to get Walter into sports, especially football.
However, there was no disputing his size as Jones was born at 11 pounds and quickly started growing in height and weight.
“I was the seventh of eight,” said Jones in 2014. “My mom was fairly tall, about 5-10, but the rest of my brothers and sisters were normal size. My dad was pretty short. There are no uncles or aunts who would make you think I’d be so big.”
Million Dollar Talent
By the time he reached Aliceville High School, Jones was intent on making it as a basketball player.
Although he was a big kid, Jones was also fast and surprisingly agile.
During a hoops game as a sophomore, Jones dunked the rock so hard that he broke a backboard.
#FormerAthleteSpotlight presented by @lpcchevrolet: Walter Jones played High School Football at Aliceville High School. From there he signed a scholarship with @FSUFootball and became the 6th overall pick of the 1997 NFL Draft. He is now a NFL Hall of Famer. pic.twitter.com/nGkNQlR9Au
— AHSAA Radio Network (@ahsaaradio) August 28, 2020
Not long after, Aliceville football coach Pierce McIntosh spotted Jones in a school hallway and was blown away by his size.
“He asked, ‘Why are you not playing football?’ ” Jones recalled. “He said, ‘You should just come out and see if you like it or not.’”
Jones laughed off McIntosh’s question, but his brother’s football injury was always in the back of his mind.
McIntosh then made a comment that helped Jones see the bigger picture.
“The next time coach McIntosh saw me,” Jones said, “he said, ‘You’re a million dollars walking around broke.’”
The coach’s comment made Jones curious and he went out for football his junior year.
Initially, Jones was raw as an offensive lineman but he learned quickly.
McIntosh gave his prodigy tapes of NFL lineman Anthony Munoz to study and eventually Jones got the hang of playing tackle.
By the end of his first season playing football, Jones was one of the best linemen in the state of Alabama.
Best Laid Plans…
There’s little doubt that Jones would have taken the gridiron by storm as a senior.
Unfortunately, he spent a little too much time playing in school and not enough time studying.
Realizing what was at stake, Jones spent the spring of his junior year trying to catch up academically.
He came up short and Aliceville’s principal told Jones he couldn’t play football his senior year.
Devastated, Jones looked for an alternative and found a place to study at French Camp Academy in Mississippi.
Walter Jones giving a shout out to French Camp Academy and Holmes Community College right now in his HOF speech.
— TJ Werre (@TJ_XTV) August 3, 2014
With almost no other options, Jones decided to leave Aliceville and attend French Camp.
“I had to make a decision in one day,” Jones said in 2014. “At that point, I decided to leave that school. I said, ‘I’m leaving today.’”
Jones arrived in Mississippi and got to work on his academics.
Meanwhile, McIntosh, his former coach at Aliceville, made a highlight tape of Jones’ one high school season and sent it to numerous colleges including Florida State.
Jones desperately wanted to play for then-FSU Coach Bobby Bowden.
“Florida State was probably the top program at the time,” said Jones in 2015. “They were recruiting me. I was from a small school. To have Bobby Bowden come into your house to talk to your mom, and saying ‘We want your son’ (was big).”
The FSU staff liked Jones’ raw ability but there were still the nagging issues of academics as Jones’ French Camp studies weren’t enough to qualify him academically at FSU.
That’s when Jones’ next playing opportunity fell into his lap.
Pit Stop at Holmes Community College
One day in the spring of 1993, Holmes Community College assistant football coach Hugh Shurden stopped by French Camp Academy to look for football prospects.
Shurden happened across Jones and his mouth dropped open.
“The kind of guy you dream about being able to get and coach,” said Shurden.
The coach invited Jones to visit HCC and meet head coach Robert Pool.
When the two met for the first time, Pool offered him a scholarship immediately.
“The coach hadn’t seen film … nothing,” Jones said. “As soon as I walked into the office, he said, ‘I’m going to give you a scholarship.’ When I got on the team, I asked how he could give me a scholarship without seeing me play. He said, ‘You passed the eyeball test.’”
Jones took the scholarship and played two years for the Bulldogs as a tight end and offensive tackle.
Walter Jones – Holmes Community College https://t.co/lWNDeTX28M
— Walterius Jones🍊 (@WalteriusJ) November 22, 2017
He became a powerful quarterback protector, leading to Mississippi Junior College Player of the Year in 1994 after allowing only one sack in 1993 and 1994 combined.
Along the way, Jones was always open to coaching in order to improve his craft.
“It was truly a pleasure, I can tell you that,” Pool said of coaching Jones.
At the end of the ‘94 season, the HCC players and staff met for a team banquet where Jones was awarded the Bulldogs MVP award.
In attendance that night was Bowden who surprised Jones with his visit.
The gesture meant the world to Jones and he reaffirmed his commitment to FSU.
When Jones arrived at FSU in the fall of 1995, he was ready to get to work.
Bowden and his staff were eager to get their new tackle out on the field, but the staff decided to redshirt Jones for his first year due to a transcript issue.
At long last, Jones suited up for the Seminoles in 1996.
“As ready to play as any player that ever walked on this field the first day,” said Bowden. “Just a physical specimen, and had the agility to go with his size. He had a wonderful attitude to work with.”
Bowden’s FSU teams were frequently one of the best in the nation and Jones only added to the program’s riches.
Our Florida State quiz today was great, but absolutely no love for former Seminole and current NFL Hall of Famer
Walter Jones. pic.twitter.com/52AShhdfNj
— Hoops Maven (@HoopsMavenHM) September 13, 2022
Between 1987 and 1995, the ‘Noles never lost more than two games each year and consistently played in a bowl game.
In 1996, Jones started at tackle and protected junior quarterback Thad Busby.
During FSU’s nationally televised game against NC State in the second week of the season, Jones was so good at his job that the analysts showed his technique to the national audience time and again.
“Everybody in my hometown was going, ‘Oh, my God, did you watch the game? They were talking about Walter,'” Jones said.
The Seminoles won that contest, 51-17, and continued throttling opponents for the rest of the year, including victories over in-state rivals Miami and Florida.
FSU’s win over the Gators was especially sweet as Florida was the top-ranked team at the time.
However, a little more than a month later, the two teams happened to meet again for the Sugar Bowl.
This time, the Gators cleaned the ‘Noles’ clock, 52-20, leading FSU to a final third overall ranking.
#76 Walter Jones Only Gave Up 1 Sack During His Career At Florida State, And During His NFL HOF Career Allowed Less Than 2 Sacks A Season‼️ pic.twitter.com/mn5yjlZX3Y
— LetsGoNolez (@lets_go_nolez) June 18, 2017
He then announced he was leaving college early to enter the 1997 NFL Draft.
Seattle Drafts Jones
Jones’s reputation on the gridiron was obvious, but his work ethic and personality also won over NFL personnel and scouts.
By the time the draft arrived, the entire nation knew that Jones was a workout fiend who pushed around an SUV as part of his training.
His immense strength and great technique made him coveted by most of the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks traded up and picked Jones with the sixth overall selection of the draft.
Where does Walter Jones rank in the all-time Seahawks list? 👀 pic.twitter.com/UYDZQlNd7r
— Sports ON Tap Seattle (@SONTSeattle) April 20, 2023
Jones arrived in the Pacific Northwest ready to take on the world.
“I figured it out pretty early,” he said in 2014. “I realized at a young age, I’m pretty good at this. If I work, I can be great at this.”
He was great right from the jump and Jones started 12 of 16 games as a rookie while keeping an eye on quarterback Warren Moon.
The Seahawks went 8-8 that year and Jones was named NFL Offensive Rookie for the month of October.
After the season, Jones made the All-Rookie team for a number of media outlets.
In 1998, Jones started all 16 games at left tackle as Seattle went 8-8 for the third time in four years.
That record cost head coach Dennis Erickson his job and the Seahawks hired former Packers coach Mike Holmgren to replace Erickson.
Holmgren Gets Seattle to the Playoffs
Getting Holmgren was a boon to Seattle as the coach had taken Green Bay to a Super Bowl and won.
During his first year with the organization in 1999, Holmgren guided the Seahawks to a 9-7 record.
Seattle also returned to the postseason for the first time since 1988 but lost to the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round.
Jones benefitted by playing for Holmgren and was voted to his first of nine Pro Bowls.
Walter Jones (former Seattle Seahawks) OT 1997-2009 pic.twitter.com/MnKRaM0pLW
— American Football 画像 (@AFpicture_japan) January 11, 2014
In the 2000 NFL Draft, the Seahawks selected Alabama running back Shaun Alexander.
It didn’t take long for Alexander to find his running lanes clear with the help of Jones (who was in the process of starting 54 straight games) and he frequently called the tackle one of the best offensive players in the game.
Seattle made the playoffs in 2003 with a 10-4 record after three lackluster years.
They were bounced in the Wild Card round and then had the same thing happen in 2004.
Jones and Seattle Reach the Super Bowl
It took a few years, but Holmgren finally put all the pieces together for the Seahawks in 2005.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck went to the Pro Bowl after passing for over 3,400 yards.
Alexander received the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards after rushing for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns behind Jones, guard Steve Hutchinson, and company.
“For me to be a part of that, to say I had an MVP running back, that’s pretty special,” Jones said years later.
Jones was recognized for his play on the field and was voted to his sixth Pro Bowl and received his third All-Pro nod in ‘05.
Big day @PodThat! Big Walter Jones is coming on the podcast 🎙
One of the best #Seahawks & NFL players of all-time. Hall of Famer. 9x Pro Bowler. 4x first team All-Pro. No. 71 is retired in Seattle!
— @SONTSeattle Follow That Please 😂 (@SONTSeattleVids) June 15, 2021
He was also called the best player in the NFL by John Madden.
Opposing coaches couldn’t hide their appreciation for Jones’ play either.
“When Walter goes up against the majority of the guys in the league, it’s like you put the guy in a paper bag and carry him around and hold him up for game day and whip his butt and put him back in there,” said former Eagles and Packers head coach Ray Rhodes.
Holmgren appreciated Jones and later shared that Jones was the best offensive player he ever coached.
Seattle management recognized Jones’ contribution to the team and made him their franchise player for the third straight year with a price tag of seven years, $52 million.
After the Seahawks ended 2005 with a franchise-best 13-3 record, the team beat Washington in the Divisional round before meeting Carolina for the NFC Championship game.
Jones Manhandles Mike Rucker, Seattle Loses Super Bowl
On paper, the matchup between the Panthers and Seahawks looked even.
Then, the game began and Seattle proved otherwise.
The Seahawks took a 20-7 lead at halftime before eventually winning easily, 34-14.
At one point during the contest, Jones was lead blocking for Alexander and Carolina defensive end Mike Rucker got in the way.
No sweat for Jones who proceeded to drive Rucker backwards for 20 yards.
“He’s 330 pounds yet he moves as if he’s 250,” Atlanta defensive end Patrick Kerney said. “He’s violent when he needs to be and when it’s time to finish the play or push you by the quarterback, that’s when he exerts all his strength. It’s like wrestling a bear for three hours.”
After taking care of Rucker and the Panthers, Seattle went to its first title game but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL.
Jones Suffers a Knee Injury
A year after losing in the Super Bowl, Seattle tried to return with a 9-7 record in 2006 but lost to Chicago in overtime of the Divisional round.
In 2007, the same thing happened, only Seattle won 10 games but lost to Holmgren’s former team, Green Bay, in the Divisional round.
Jones kept trucking along and returned to the Pro Bowl each year.
71 days until the Seahawks home opener. Hall of famer, Seahawk legend, and arguably the greatest LT of all time, Walter Jones pic.twitter.com/3EaJ3Wngon
— Dirty Osprey (@Seahawk_NFL) July 3, 2022
Then, in 2008, he suffered from knee inflammation and was hindered significantly.
Jones was able to gut it out until a nationally televised game against Dallas on Thanksgiving.
During the contest, he gave up two sacks to Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
“It’s so unusual,” Holmgren said, “that it kind of shocks you when it happens.”
When the game concluded, doctors examined Jones’ knee and said surgery was needed immediately.
Jones heeded their advice and didn’t return that season.
As the saying goes, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.
Jones wanted to keep playing in 2009, but his knee wasn’t strong enough and he spent the year on injured reserve.
The following spring, Jones realized that his days as an NFL player were done and he retired in April of 2010.
During his career, Jones played in 180 games, gave up only 23 sacks, and was penalized for holding nine times.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler (passing Cortez Kennedy for the most in Seahawks history), six-time All-Pro, and played in one Super Bowl.
Jones was later selected for the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and the league’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
The Seahawks retired Jones’s number 71 and added him to their Ring of Honor in 2014.
-Best LT ever
-'96 2nd Team All-American
-'97 6th overall pick
-9x Pro Bowl selection
-4x First Team All-Pro
-April 30th is Walter Jones Day in WA State
-'14 Pro Football Hall Of Fame pic.twitter.com/5eWWbVBHHZ
— Raymond Woodie Jr. (@CoachWoodie) April 5, 2018
That same year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Jones during his first year of eligibility.
Since leaving the game, Jones has mostly been off the radar.
He divides his time between Seattle and Alabama and has been honored a number of times by the Seattle community.
In 2011, he hoisted the 12th Man flag before a game against New Orleans and was an honorary captain for the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII win over Denver.
Jones also gives back to his former Alabama community by hosting The Walter Jones Turkey Bowl flag football event every year for Thanksgiving.
The tournament raises money for dental and medical care for low-income families in the area.