Pro Football Hall Of Famer Walter Jones Talks Legacy And Life After Football

Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Jones was a six-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowl and a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team. During his 12 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks Jones started in 180 games at left tackle only allowing 23 sacks. Just sit back and think about that for a second throughout his whole career, Jones only allowed fewer than 2 sacks per year.  So, for you aspirating offensive linemen out there I would be studying Jones’ techniques on how he protected the quarterback during his playing days. He was someone that hardly missed a defensive assignment.

Jones would announce his retirement on April 29, 2010, and the following day then Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire would declare April 30, 2010, as Walter Jones Day. In 2005, Jones along with future Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson provided running lane as Shaun Alexander took home the MVP on their way to Seattle’s first SuperBowl in Franchise History. In 2014, Jones was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the 2014 Hall of Fame to discuss thoughts on the Seahawks offseason moves.

The big story around the Seahawks this coming season will be the arrival of Shaquem Griffin in Seattle.  How do you think his story will fuel the defensive side of the ball that just lost some its leadership in Sherman and Bennett?

I think it will be great; I think it all depends on how quick he learns the defense. The cool thing about this situation is that he already has someone that knows the playbook that likes having a tutor. When Shaquem has questions, his brother will be there to answer them, and it doesn’t matter how the Seahawks use him. If they use him in a pass rush situation or a cover, he will be able to perform. I think he is the type of player that can go out on the field and make plays. If he can showcase that he can make plays, then it will help compensate for the talent that we lost on the defense.

What do you think the Seattle Seahawks need to get the offensive line back to where it was in 2005 when you and Steve Hutchinson were the first lines of defense?

I think we are headed in the right direction now with the signing of coach Mike Solari and Duane Brown having another year under his built. When he came here last year, he had just come back to the Texans from his holdout and to play here in Seattle.  Then the following week he was traded and became part of the Seahawks. That is something that can be tough on anyone, and it is also a learning curve even though he is an All-Pro he had to learn a new system. Still, he needed to show the organization that he could still play, with another year in the system, he will be a significant improvement to the offensive line.

What are your thoughts on the 2018 draft class for the Seattle Seahawks and do you feel they address some critical needs thus far this offseason?

I think so, and you must remember there were not that many picks, but I think they address some needs. I think the selection of Shaquem Griffin was a great pick up and it was great for him to come out to Seattle. The Seahawks did what they could considering the financial situation that they are in. The team got rid of some of the veterans that could teach some of these younger players what it takes to win in the NFL, but coach Carroll likes his players to play with a chip on their shoulder.  You bring in these low contract players, and they have something to prove and keep the nucleus of players. We still have Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, and Doug Baldwin to teach these players how to win at a high level.

Is there anyone else that you would like them to bring in on the free agent market?

Not right now, I had the opportunity to go out and watch them practice and the group of guys look great. I don’t watch free agency as much as other people I watch it like a fan and see what happens. Like I said before they have a great nucleus of guys going into training camp we will have to see what happens.  The NFL West is a division the Seahawks were at the top of for a while now they must figure things out, but I don’t know any free agents that are out there that can help this team right now.

You were able to be in attendance to see former Seahawk Kenny Easley get inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. Can you tell us some of the emotions that you felt watching him finally take his place in Canton?

It was amazing! The first time I had the opportunity to go to the Hall of Fame was when Cortez Kennedy was inducted.  He said Walt your next and when I got in I started making my speech and thought to myself who is the next Seahawk to get in. Kenny was the first name that came to mind when looking back on Seahawks highlight Kenny Easley was always one of the first players to come up. For me it was exciting, and the cool thing about him is to hear his story the way he was at odds with the Seahawks and for him to forgive the team. Then for him to step on that stage to give an excellent speech for me, it was great and for us to get another Seahawk in there. So many other teams have players in the Hall, and now we are starting to get more of us in Canton. You are a part of an elite class, and he deserves to be there.

Do you think Shaun Alexander is a Hall of Famer and will Steve Hutchinson go in as a Seahawk?

I think he will go in as a Seahawk because that is the team that drafted him. I had the opportunity to speak with him last year, and I think he plans on going in as a Seahawk. They have forgiven him and recognize him as one of their own. I think the next man up is between Steve, Mike Holmgren, Jacob Green, and Shaun maybe. Running backs are tough because of numbers it all depends on the voters. It is a popularity thing as well nowadays, and I think from a media standpoint Shaun was a great guy. For me personally, I would put Steve and Coach Holmgren before Shaun, but it all depends.

Do you think that if Hutch would have resigned with the team do you think Seattle would have gone back to back?

I don’t know! It’s tough I think when you have something truly great and lose that one person it can change team chemistry. We had consistent players like him Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, and myself. For the offense that we played, you need great guard play Hutch made Sean Locklear and my job easy. Once we lost that the next year we were trying to compare everyone that played on the side to what we lost in Hutch and it hurt us. Instead, we should have taken one guy and said this is your job to win every time if the guy messed up then switch him to the next man up. The player should have been allowed to gain their rhythm, if we had Hutch there the game would have been different. You never know but that moment was not the same. There would have been an excellent opportunity to get back to the SuperBowl with him in the fold.

I had the opportunity to speak with fellow Hall of Famer and Seahawk Kenny Easley about the best draft class in his opinion. He compared the 1981 NFL Draft to the 1992 Dream Team. I wanted to get your thoughts on which Draft Class you would put at the top?

Everyone has their own opinion about their draft, and I think that I came from a great draft as well. For me personally, I was just trying to get into the game. I played one year at Florida State, and my name was on the circuit, but there was of lot players that came from 1997 who had successful careers. We have a couple of Hall of Famers in now and some others that will get in within a couple of years down the line. I think that Kenny’s class set the tone in the old NFL era and we can’t hit the way they did back in the day. He and Ronnie Lott are who they showed in highlights. Kenny only played eight years, but he was an impact guy. Those players performed at a high level consistently for many years.

You played alongside Steve Hutchinson for several seasons including the first Super Bowl run back in 2005. When you first heard that he was not going to return the following season from a teammate standpoint what was your initial reaction to the news?

I heard it like everybody, and there was something that I had to do with my contract to get him signed. I thought he would come back I did not know specific numbers, but I thought everything was going as planned. Once I heard it, I was like oh well it’s a business. I understood it because I had been through that same type of situation and you are trying to prove a point. I don’t think the Seahawks at that point believed he was as good as he thought he was, and as an organization, they made the decision on their own not to pay what the Vikings were offering. For me, it’s great because you get the chance to test the market; I never had the opportunity to get wooed by an organization. I think they knew if they let me test the market I probably would be gone unless they matched the contract details. It was sad to see Hutch leave, but as a player we know it’s a business, and you must move on.  All you can say is that it was smart on his part to add what is now known, as the poison pill. I thought he was going to get in this year, but they say sometimes changing teams can hurt your chance. The first time around they decided to put in two wide receivers and two linebackers this year. Maybe next year they will put in two offensive linemen.

Since you retired from the NFL, you have picked up photography and have been spotted at Sounders games recently. Why does photography intrigued you some much and do you plan on starting your own photography company?

I had a friend that works in the media, and I was talking to him because that is what he was into, and when I go with my kids on vacation I take pictures. So, I had a camera at that point I have never done anything professionally, and he was trying to encourage me to come out and see how I liked it. One night I went out and took pictures of the city, and sometimes people think camera work is easy, but there is a lot more technique involved, then just shooting with your iPhone or Android. It’s all about angles, lighting, and editing. I had the opportunity to learn those things, and the fun part was another sport that I was able to shoot for.

When it comes to football, I felt it would be handed to me because I’m a former player. I want to work my way from the ground up and not be given handouts. I also have my own clothing line “The Best to Ever do it,” and eventually I want to branch out into the media side. Right now, I am learning, and I get a chance to take pictures, and to go in the press box. I never had the opportunity before, and now I . Hopefully to be part of the media. This is something that I want to do, and I can make my own schedule, and the cool thing is people want to see you succeed.

I want to show my kids that there are other options out there besides playing football. Now don’t get me wrong the game has been good to me, but as we all know not everyone gets the opportunity to play at the professional level. Now, we have a platform that allows us to venture off into other things if we choose to do that. That is the blessing that football has given me I have the option to pick and choose what I want to get involved with and how I spend my time. The same thing goes with my clothing line I can quickly pay someone to market my brand, but I don’t have the opportunity to learn through trial, and error I enjoy that part of the process.

Have you thought about giving high schoolers in the Seattle metroplex an opportunity to build their portfolio at some of the professional and collegiate events around town?

That is something I would like to do down the road. I have been a part of the city for 20 years now, but I have been going back and forth to Alabama. Now, that I have been here full time for the past few years, I want to be more involved within the community of Seattle. I’m still trying to learn about what direction I want to go in and what organization I want to be a part of, but that would be something I would like to do for the kids allowing them to build their portfolios and give them an alternative to sports if they choose to go in that direction.

Do you have any other business ventures that you would like to share with the public?

Right now, my clothing line “The Best to ever do it,” is what I am really focused on. We had it out for six months, but now we are revamping it, hopefully, I will have the website back up soon. We are in the process of getting inventory and expanding on what we already have with T-shirts and going into workout apparel. I’m doing some photography along with some radio and podcast things.

When the Sonics finally return to Seattle would you be interested in possibly becoming a minority owner of the franchise?

If someone came and asked me to be a part of it, I would be interested. I know Dwyane Wade said something about it and once we get a Hockey team, it will become more of a reality of getting a basketball team. We must get an arena first, and a couple of years ago we thought it was going to happen with the Kings coming, but Seattle is my home now. I hope to still be around to see another NBA team come here.

What does Walter Jones want his legacy to be when it is all said and done?

To be honest with you I have not really thought about it, just someone that did things the right way. I hope when people go back and look at my career highlights that they say he was consistent. I tried to put myself in exceptional situations and surround myself with great people and if you want to watch someone go look up Walter Jones.

Originally Posted on The Hype Magazine.

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Written by Landon Buford

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