Walter Jones, quite simply, is one of the best left tackles in NFL history. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer (class of 2014) after a magnificent 12-year career in which he made nine Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro four times.
But, as the legendary offensive lineman explained on the latest episode of the Talkin' Seahawks Podcast, his career almost never happened.
That's because Jones' mom wouldn't let him play football as a kid. Jones was the youngest of eight kids being raised by his single mother in Aliceville, Ala. His older brother once broke his leg playing football, and that marked the end of football in the family. Jones' mother couldn't afford to put her kids into sports, let alone the medical bills.
During Jones' freshman year at Aliceville High School, Pierce McIntosh had just been hired as the head football coach. The school's football program had an awful track record, and it was McIntosh's job to bring the team back to respectability.
McIntosh toured the campus' halls and actively recruited students to play football. Jones, although not yet his eventual 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, was still easy to spot.
"He was walking around campus and trying to find kids who wanted to come out and play," Jones said. "He saw me. He saw my size at that time – still growing into my body but bigger than most of the kids in the school.
"I told him, ‘If you can convince my mom.' He was able to do that, and that's where it all started for me."
It didn't take long for McIntosh to realize that Jones, beyond his imposing frame, had God-gifted natural talent. Jones figured out the same thing after his first season of organized football was far easier than it should have been.
"Once I figured out how to play the game, the game came pretty easy to me, and I could do it at a very high level," Jones said. "After a year of playing football, (McIntosh) told me, ‘You can make money doing this. You're a million dollars walking around.'"
Academics also nearly got in the way of Jones' promising future as a football player. As the runt of the family, he felt overlooked and even neglected at times. That created somewhat of a rebellious attitude towards his schoolwork.
Jones regularly failed classes, and his biggest mistake was assuming that his friends were doing the same.
"I thought they were doing the same thing I was doing – not going to school very much. They were. They were going on to the next grade and I wasn't," Jones said. "I realized this is all on me, it's not my mom's fault."
Jones put himself in such a hole that he had to take his 11th and 12th grade classes during his senior football season. McIntosh was able to help orchestrate that to ensure Jones graduated high school on time.
Even still, Jones wasn't in a position to get into a major college program due to the lack of core credits. He attended a Florida State football camp during his junior year, and the Seminoles coaching staff loved him. They helped get him into Holmes Community College in Mississippi which would pave the way for his transfer to FSU. The rest, as they say, is history.
But it's wild to consider the "what if" scenario had McIntosh not stopped Jones in the halls of Aliceville High School.
"That's so true, man," Jones said.
Listen to the full conversation with Jones here.
How Walter Jones' Hall of Fame career almost never came to be originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest