Walter Jones Jr., OT, 1995-1996
When you consider the entirety of players' careers, Walter Jones is without a doubt the best offensive lineman to have ever played at Florida State University. The fact he suited up for just one season in Garnet and Gold is why Jones finds himself so far down on this list. Had he played just one more year as a Seminole, the future NFL Hall-of-Famer would be in FSU's all-time top 10, possibly even the top five.
Born in Aliceville, Alabama, Walter grew into a monstrous 6-5, 260-pounder by the time he was 18 and looking to play football in college. He started at Holmes Community College in Mississippi and played there for two years as a tight end and offensive tackle.
By the time he was ready to move on to Division I he had been named the Mississippi Junior College player of the year after surrendering just a single sack over his two seasons at Holmes.
He arrived in Tallahassee in 1995 and was forced to take sit out with a redshirt that year. The following Spring he moved from guard back to offensive tackle as a result of depth concerns along the Florida State line. By the time the season rolled around he was entrenched at left tackle and went on to start all 12 games on FSU's ill-fated '96 National Title run– surrendering just a single sack the whole year.
Then after one season he left and was taken sixth overall by the Seattle Seahawks.
He earned only one All-American honor in his time at Florida State (a second team selection by the Associated Press) and just as soon as Seminole fans had started to learn his name he was already out the door.
But Walter Jones is still the best offensive lineman to have ever come out of Florida State.
Right now there are two Florida State Seminoles in the NFL Hall of Fame, Deion Sanders and Fred Biletnikoff (both are ahead on the countdown). In the upcoming vote, for the class of 2014, FSU is likely to get two more.
One is Derrick Brooks (also ahead on the countdown), the other is Walter Jones.
In talking about the "Greatest Seminoles" of all-time it's important to remember that their contributions on the field while at Florida State are the primary consideration, but other factors certainly come into play as well.
Andre Wadsworth (no. 18) could have been one of the top ten Seminoles of all-time if his time in the NFL had panned out better for him. Injuries and his rookie holdout both conspired to shorten what once looked like a promising professional career and as a result his reputation– and to a smaller extent Florida State's– were impacted negatively for it.
If you do word-association and say "Andre Wadsworth" to an NFL fan, the unfortunate truth is that nine out of ten will blurt out "bust." When there's as many talented alums as Florida State has produced in the past 40+ years, competition is tight and that sort of factor can drop a guy down the list.
Walter Jones benefits the opposite way when you zoom out on his career. He spent just two years, one season, 12 games on the field for the Seminoles. But come August of 2014 when he's standing beside a bust of himself in Canton as one of the greatest players in the history of the game– that's not going to look bad for Florida State.
Especially when he's standing beside another Seminole on the same stage.
Walter Jones' place in Canton is more-or-less a given at this point. Whether or not it's on the first ballot (it likely will be) he's definitely headed to the Hall.
Jones' 12 season NFL career was the epitome of what a team hopes for in a top ten NFL Draft pick. Five selections after "can't-miss-prospect" Orlando Pace was taken first overall, Seattle took Jones sixth in 1997. He started 12 games his first year and earned NFL All-Rookie honors.
Two years later, in 1999, Jones was selected to his first NFL Pro Bowl. He made nine of them over the course of his career. He was also named an All-Pro seven times, including five straight years from 2004-2008, half a decade, that Jones was considered the consensus best left tackle in all of professional football. Not surprisingly he was also selected to the NFL's 2000's all-decade team.
Less than a year after hanging up his cleats the Seahawks had already retired Jones' number 71 jersey. And while he's yet to be inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame, I imagine it won't take long after he walks across the stage in Canton before he gets that invitation too.
His Seminole career may have lasted just 12 games, but his bust will sit in Canton forever and the line in his Bio beside "College:" will always say Florida State.
Next up on the countdown is one of the most colorful characters in FSU's history...
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