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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Seeking a 40 time for Walter Jones statue

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Walter Jones was the best player on the best teams in Seattle Seahawks history.

In my view, there wasn't a close second on those mid-2000s teams even though quite a few players reached Pro Bowls. One, Shaun Alexander, was league MVP.

It's fitting, then, that Jones, above all other recent Seahawks, will receive a statue in his honor at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Team and airport officials plan to unveil the statue Tuesday as part of a new Seahawks-themed restaurant at the airport.

The Seahawks made Jones the sixth player chosen in the 1997 draft even though Jones was a junior-college transfer without much experience at the highest level of college football. The team's offensive line coach at the time, Howard Mudd, initially didn't believe scouts when they said Jones clocked 4.6 seconds in a 40-yard dash before the draft.

How incredible was that time for an offensive tackle with a frame big enough to comfortably carry 320-plus pounds? Well, running back Ryan Williams and receiver Austin Pettis, both drafted by NFC West teams in the first three rounds this year, finished the 40 in 4.61 seconds at the 2011 combine.

Jones' athletic ability, durability and consistency set him apart from other tackles of his era. The athleticism in particular was freakish.

"It was one of those things where you look at the tape and you say, 'God,' " Mudd said after the 1997 draft. "Then you look at another tape and you say, 'Well, we'll see if it's for real.' Then I saw another tape and I just went, 'Wow!' "

Nearly 15 years later, Jones is going from fixture on the offensive line to fixture of another kind.

Airport tributes to legendary athletes carry some appeal. Most of us aren't going to make special trips to see statues or other tributes at local halls of fame. But if we're sitting in an airport during a layover and unable to find one of the two or three working power outlets available at some of these terminals, why not sample the local sporting flavor?

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame has an exhibit at the airport in San Francisco. Bronze plaques honoring enshrinees appear there before finding homes near where the athletes made lasting impacts. San Francisco 49ers greats Dwight Clark and George Seifert were enshrined this year.

Visitors to the airport in Pittsburgh can find themselves face to facemask with Steelers great Franco Harris, depicted making the Immaculate Reception.

Note: In other statue-related NFC West news, Sam Bradford is getting one at the University of Oklahoma.