NEW YORK – Walter Jones, a rock of stability as the Seahawks’ left tackle from 1997 through 2008, admitted he was beginning to crack under the pressure Saturday waiting to hear if he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sitting with him in his New York hotel room was his 14-year-old son Walterius, who finally offered some advice.
“He was telling me to calm down,” Jones recalled later. “Saying, ‘Calm down, dad.’ I just don’t know how that last hour or so is so tough.”
Finally, the call came, letting Jones know he was one of seven former players who will make up the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 2.
“As a player, we want to be selected,” he said. “Everybody wants to be selected. So you want that phone call. So at that last hour, the emotions were high, man.”
The picks were made by the 46-member selection committee during meetings earlier in the day in New York. Reportedly, the meetings were the longest on record, lasting more than nine hours.
Indications, however, are that Jones was an easy call, regarded by some observers as one of the best left tackles to ever play in the NFL.
Jones started 180 games for the Seahawks – which ranks second in team history behind 197 by fellow Hall of Famer Steve Largent – and was named to the Pro Bowl nine times, the most in team history. He was also a six-time Associated Press All-Pro and helped lead the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl following the 2005 season.
He was one of two players elected Saturday in their first year of eligibility, joining former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who like Jones, played at Florida State.
Getting in on the first try, Jones said, “makes you feel like you done did it the right way.”
Jones wiped off sweat as he talked to reporters later backstage at the Radio City Music Hall, where the selections were announced at the NFL Honors show, saying he knew his nervousness over the Hall of Fame contrasted with his image.
“I’m not the emotional guy here,” said Jones, who said he had not decided on who will present him at the Hall of Fame induction but that he will consider his son. “But at that moment (when he heard of being picked) it was a sigh of relief and you embrace it.”
Jones was one of 15-modern day finalists the committee debated, five of whom were elected into the Hall. The others were Brooks, defensive tackle Michael Strahan, receiver Andre Reed and defensive back Aeneas Williams. Elected as Senior Committee picks were punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey.
Finalists who were not elected: kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, receiver Tim Brown, owner Eddie Debartolo Jr., coach Tony Dungy, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, receiver Marvin Harrison, safety John Lynch and guard Will Shields.
Jones joins Largent as the only two players who spent all of their career with the Seahawks to be elected in their first year of eligibility. The only other player in the Hall who was a Seahawk for his entire career is defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, who got in on his fourth try in 2012.
Five other players who played no more than three years with the Seahawks are also in the Hall of Fame. (DT John Randle, QB Warren Moon, WR Jerry Rice, DE Carl Eller and RB Franco Harris. Mike McCormack, a coach and general manager with the Seahawks, is also in the Hall for his playing career.)
Jones said the fact he played his entire career with the Seahawks and got elected on the same weekend that the team is in the Super Bowl “makes it special.”
“For me to be on that field tomorrow and for the Seahawks to have a chance to do something very special – it’s something I didn’t get a chance to do to bring the Super Bowl (trophy) back home,” he said.
The hang time is over for Guy. The longtime punter for the Oakland Raiders is all by himself once again.
After waiting 23 years, Guy is the first punter elected to the Hall.
“Good things are worth waiting for,” Guy said. “It’s just a matter of time when it will show up. And I knew it would, sooner or later. It had to, whether it was me or somebody down the road. But sooner or later, it had to show up, because that is a part of a football game.”
Guy turned the punting job into a defensive weapon after he became the first player at his position to be selected in the first round of the draft in 1973. He made “hang time” part of the football vernacular while playing all of his 207 games in 14 seasons with the Raiders.
The Southern Mississippi product averaged 42.4 yards, falling under the 40-yard bar only during the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Only three of Guy’s 1,049 punts were blocked, and he set an NFL record with 619 in a row without a block.