Walter Jones picked the wrong time to have his kitchen and bathroom renovated. Or at least it seemed that way.
Just as coronavirus fears were starting to creep up in the U.S., Jones’ home in Renton was in the midst of a remodel. And a couple of weeks later, when he was visiting his mom in Alabama, Washington state went into lockdown.
Jones, who’s never been conservative in his food intake, decided he wasn’t going to quarantine without a kitchen. So he flew his kids down to Huntsville, where their mother lives, too, and has been in ‘Bama ever since.
“It’s almost been like ‘The Walking Dead.’ Once you find your group, you stay with that group,” said Jones, a former Seahawks left tackle and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. “It’s cool. It ain’t about going anywhere. It’s about being with friends and family.”
Funny, when defensive ends used to line up against Jones, it wasn’t about going anywhere, either. For 12 years in Seattle, Walter made sure they all stayed put.
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who also coached Brett Favre, Joe Montana and Steve Young, once called Jones the best offensive player to ever play for him. And though Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander earned MVP honors when Seattle reached the Super Bowl in the 2005 season, that Jones-led O-line was critical to Alexander’s league-high 1,880 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
Jones said that was the season “that put offensive linemen on the map.” He added that his favorite memory was seeing the fans in the CenturyLink Field crying after the Seahawks won the NFC Championship Game en route to their first Super Bowl appearance.
Speaking of which — did the referees cost you that game against Pittsburgh?
“I think the refs had some bad calls, but as players, we have to overcome that,” Jones said. “You can blame the refs for so little, but we didn’t play our best.”
Jones retired in 2008 and, for the first few years, epitomized the part of retiree. He didn’t seek another gig. He committed himself to relaxation. He lived a carefree and relatively frugal life.
But one day he was on the couch when his son came into the room, and Jones had a scary thought.
“He looked at me, and I worried that he might think this is easy, that this is how it’s going to be,” Jones said. “I wanted to show him that you can change, so I got out there let people get to know me.”
Jones wasn’t quite a recluse during his playing days, but he wasn’t exactly a shimmering personality. He would answer reporters’ questions politely but tried his best to stay out of the public eye.
Nowadays, though, or at least before quarantine — Walt may have been the most ubiquitous man in Seattle.
Whether it’s a Sounders game, Seahawks game or charity golf tournament, Jones always seems to be there in some capacity. Sometimes he’s just spectating, sometimes he’s taking pictures on the sideline, and sometimes he goes hole to hole to give people a chance to meet a local legend and Hall of Famer.
He also joined KING 5 a couple years ago as a football analyst after bumping into sportscaster Paul Silvi and asking for a role. It wasn’t something he imagined during his playing days, but now his public appearances have become a fundamental part of his identity.
“Maybe I wasn’t the face of the Seahawks when I played, but now I understand my role,” Jones said. “I feel like I’m representing the Seahawks and the NFL everywhere I go. The Seahawks were good to me. They changed my life. So I want to do my best to rep the Seahawks and rep Seattle.”
What’s the best thing someone can say to you when they see you? I asked him.
“I think the coolest thing someone has said is, ‘My dad loves you and came to the games to watch you,’ ” Jones said. “You usually don’t go to a game to watch an offensive lineman.”
Jones’ 20-year-old son Walterius played briefly at Dakota State in Madison, S.D., as a defensive lineman before leaving.
Dad says Walterius might try to play at a junior college but isn’t sure. Walterius’ twin sister Waleria played basketball in high school but tore up her knee and decided she was done with sports.
Right now, Jones is just happy to with both of them in his native state.
What are you doing to pass the time?
“Just trying not to eat too much.”