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Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Walter Jones was nearly unbeatable

In advance of Saturday night's Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony (7 p.m. ET on NFL Network), NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison is taking a closer look at the seven members of the Class of 2014. Below you'll find five intriguing tidbits about offensive tackle Walter Jones.

1) A protector ... with the stats to prove it

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Walter Jones Through the Years

Take a look at some of the best photos of Walter Jones throughout his time as a Seahawk and in the years since he retired.

I know what you're thinking: Stats for an offensive lineman?!

Yes. Get this: In 12 seasons at left tackle -- that's 180 games, mind you -- Jones gave up all of 23 sacks. Think about that for a moment: That's fewer than two sacks per year, or approximately one every eight games. And when you consider that a tackle participates in something like 60 plays per game, well ... let's just say he didn't get beat too often.

That's the very definition of dominance.

2) Not every left tackle has his day

It's one thing to have an outstanding NFL career and become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But to have an entire day set aside in your honor?

Jones retired on April 29, 2010, and then-Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire declared the following day -- April 30 -- would be known in the state that year as "Walter Jones Day," citing Jones' fine accomplishments. Hey, who isn't for celebrating a man's life? That said, I wouldn't think your average 18-year-old kid in Spokane searching Travelocity for trips to Fargo would even know what a left tackle is, much less that a particular left tackle would inspire so much love. Guess it goes to show just how strongly the Seahawks fan base felt about its premier lineman.

"They didn't give Shaun Alexander a day, I can tell you that," a random Seahawks homer working in our NFL.com office told me.

And then there's this: Recently, we selected Steve Largent as the greatest Seahawk on NFL.com -- and I got more than a few comments and tweets extolling the virtues of Jones over the legendary wideout.

3) One-year wunderkind

Jones is the greatest offensive lineman to ever come out of Florida State, which is saying something, considering what a football factory the school has been historically. But what really makes that fact interesting is that Jones played just 12 games there.

You see, Jones started his collegiate career at Holmes Community College, where he was named Mississippi Junior College Player of the Year by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in 1994. Jones -- who even played a little tight end during that time -- transferred to Florida State in 1995, had to redshirt for a season, then became the starting left tackle for Bobby Bowden in 1996. Florida State went 11-1 that year, with the only loss coming in the national championship game against Florida. Jones' contribution: one sack allowed ... the whole season.

4) Tough exit

All the great ones have a rough time at the office occasionally; it's inevitable. Dan Marino stunk up the joint in his lone Super Bowl appearance. Eric Dickerson couldn't do anything against the 1985 Bears. And Peyton Manning, well ... we saw what happened in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Unfortunately for Jones, his roughest day as a pro also wound up being his last day as a pro, with the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware beating him for two sacks in a blowout Thanksgiving Day loss for the Seahawks in Dallas in 2008. But consider these factors:

» Ware -- who finished with 20 sacks that season -- was the best pass rusher in the NFL at the time.
» Jones was playing with an injured knee, which would require surgery and ultimately end his career roughly two years later.

If your worst day as a professional comes courtesy of someone at the level of Ware and you were playing hurt, then I think you're doing OK.

5) The best of the best

In the 2005 season, Jones was at the top of his game. His dominance allowed Matt Hasselbeck to have a clean enough pocket that he could lead the NFL's top scoring offense (28.2 points per game). Shaun Alexander ran behind Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns, earning NFL MVP honors.

For his part, Jones was named first team All-Pro by The Associated Press -- and the best player that year at any position by The Sporting News. That is to say, the mammoth tackle did his job better than anyone else in the league, and he was being recognized for it. That season featured stars like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Terrell Owens, Tony Gonzalez, Troy Polamalu and Jonathan Ogden -- among many others -- in their prime. To be placed at the top of the heap was an honor that almost couldn't be matched ...

... until he became a first-ballot Hall of Famer, of course.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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