Honoring Walter Jones

The Seattle Seahawks will salute Walter Jones on Sunday with a ceremony during their game against the Panthers at Qwest Field by unveiling his already retired No. 71.

Robbie Tobeck knew Walter Jones was a good player when he joined the Seahawks in 2000. He just didn’t know how good.

“I’ve always said this about Walt, you know you’re around a great player – and I’m not talking about a good player, I’m talking about a great player – when the other guys in the meeting room are sitting back and watching him in film,” Tobeck said.

“We’re talking guys who essentially have the same job, but understand that Walter is just head and shoulders above the other professionals in the room. He was just amazing to watch.”

The Seahawks, it was announced Wednesday, will recognize Jones’ greatness with a retirement ceremony for his No. 71 during Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field. His number was retired on the day Jones announced his retirement in April.

But Sunday, his number will join those of Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent (No. 80) and the fans (No. 12) in hanging from the rafters at Qwest. The ceremony will take place at the two-minute warning in the first half.

The significance of the moment is not lost on Jones.

“It will be great,” he said Wednesday. “You’re still trying to wrap your mind around what’s going to happen – for your number to get retired with the team you played for your whole career. So that’s a blessing.”

As many great days as Jones had during his career, he never envisioned this day.

“Getting your jersey retired is amazing,” he said. “To be the second guy to do that in this organization is great. It will always be remembered. Nobody can ever wear that number. So for that to happen and me to do it, it’s a great honor.”

It’s special recognition for a special player. Jones was voted to nine Pro Bowls during his 13-season career with the Seahawks, as well as being selected All-Pro six times and to a spot on the NFL Team of the Decade for the 2000s.

“It will be fun, but it will also be hard, to finally see his number up there,” right tackle Sean Locklear said. “It’s well-deserved. But at the same time, I wish he was still here. I saw him today and he looks like he could still play.”

Locklear will share in the moment, as one of the linemen who was privileged to play on the same line with the future Hall of Famer.

“It will be huge,” Locklear said. “A lot of the stuff I know I learned from just watching Walter play. It will be a little emotional. But I have to try and keep that inside, because we’ve still got a game to play.”

Tobeck can relate. He played on that 2005 line that led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance, as well. He and left guard Steve Hutchinson also were voted to the Pro Bowl that season. The left guard was Chris Gray, a warrior who played in 135 consecutive games for the Seahawks.

So to have this impressive collection of linemen in total awe of the things Jones could do on the field perhaps said it all – and said it best.

“I was solid,” Tobeck said. “Walter was great.

“I mean, none of us could do the stuff that Walt could do. We’d sit in there and watch him just destroy some guy. We’d look at each other and go, ‘I can’t do that. Could you do that?’ The answer, of course, was no.”

Something else that became a regular occurrence was watching others join the Seahawks who had previously played or coached against Jones, and getting their take on him. The closeness only seemed to enhance the respect they had for him.

Like Ray Rhodes, who coached for the Seahawks from 2003-07 after stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos.

“With other teams, every time we played against Walter Jones, whoever lined up in front of him he kicked the (bleep) out of them,” Rhodes said during training camp in 2005. “I am in the coaches’ room with some of the guys who I coached with on other teams and I said, ‘You know, I am embarrassed for you. If we could play this game over tomorrow, then he would be embarrassed again. Again, the next day.’

“He is the top player in this league. There are not many tackles that have the ability that Walter has. He is going to dominate. He is one of the guys on our team that can line up and play with anybody. That is a compliment to Walter. One of the old coaches I used to work with said, ‘When Walter goes up against the majority of guys in this 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 (rear end) and put him back in there.’ That is how Walter Jones is. He is a dominating player for our football team. He is a great player.”

Sunday, Jones’ greatness will be recognized for the ages when his number joins that of Largent in the rafters at Qwest Field.