Dallas Cowboys

Time hasn’t always been on Everson Walls' side

Everson Walls never concerned himself much with time.

Of course, others did.

Pointing to his slow 40-yard dash time of 4.7 seconds that caused him to go undrafted out of Grambling State University, despite leading the nation interceptions, and be largely unappreciated by the masses during a 13-year NFL career that included becoming the only cornerback in NFL history to lead the league in interceptions three times.

The former Dallas Cowboys legend, who won a Super Bowl title with the New Giants in 1990, just responded to critics with knack, guile, anticipation and an uncanny ability to make plays.

There was also this little-known fact that the slow Walls could backpaddle as fast as guys who ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds.

To that end, Walls won’t be worried about time on Saturday as he sits, along with the other finalists, and waits as the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class is announced.

Walls has already made history just by being in the number. The 19-year span from the end of his career in 1993 before becoming a finalist is believed to be the longest ever.

Walls, who at one time was bitter about being overlooked and snubbed for so long, is just enjoying a process that fits his career.

“It’s fun,” Walls said. “Not many people get new territory at 58 years old. The fact that I’m being discussed. Not many people can say it took all these years to even be discussed And then when I am discussed I go all the way to the finals. It’s fun. I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

“I tell people all the time. It’s pretty standard for my life. It’s always been weird. It’s never been by the book. Nothing has ever been ideal for me. I relish that. Because I have always thrived in that situation. To me, Hall of Fame or not, I am still going to thrive. I’m still a long shot. But I got them right where I want them. This is a familiar situation for me.”

Indeed.

Consider that despite leading the NFL with 11 interceptions a rookie _ no player has recorded 11 interceptions in a season since _ his first year is best known for being on the wrong end of “The Catch” by Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC title game when the Cowboys lost to San Francisco 49ers in heartbreaking fashion.

That iconic photo was plastered on the cover of Sports Illustrated and is known the world over.

It was fitting that when Walls won the Super Bowl as a member of the Giants in 1990 after being released by Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, it was his arms-raised, triumphant photo that made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Time has always had a way of making things right for Walls.

Now the Cowboys are talking about finally putting him in the team’s hallowed Ring of Honor.

“I have been begging for that,” Walls said. “I wanted that a long time ago. It never comes when I want it. I guess it comes when I need it. I’ve always been the inconvenient truth. I enjoyed that then. I enjoy it now.”

Walls leaned at the foot of legends. He played for Hall of Famer Eddie Robinson at Grambling, Hall of Famer Tom Landry with the Cowboys, Hall of Famer Bill Parcells with Giants as well as his two Hall of Fame assistants, Bill Belichick, now considered the greatest coach in NFL history with the New England Patriots and Nick Saban, who considered the greatest college in history at Alabama.

Belichick took time away from his Super Bowl LII preparations to give Walls an emphatic Hall of Fame endorsement.

“Deserving,” Belichick said. “Very deserving. Everson did it in a different system — a lot of man-to-man coverage in Dallas. When I had him at the Giants, he played safety and called signals for us. Played corner and safety for me at Cleveland. He's a very versatile player.

“So Everson, I think he's a good football player. Other guys might test better on an athletic test, but in terms of seeing the ball, route recognition, key plays in big games, awareness, all those kind of things, Everson is near the top of my list in that group. I loved coaching Everson. He's a really good guy to coach.”

Ironically, the love from Belichick is more than he ever got from Landry, who Walls said respected his game, but never gave him any adulation or showed him any appreciation.

“I know he respected my game, but he was never going to let on,” Walls said of Landry. “It was all about his system. I didn’t play it the way he wanted to me to play it. I had to play it the way I played it because of my lack of speed. I was an improviser.”

Time and speed has Walls playing it his way now and improvising as he goes.

No one has waited this long as a first-time finalist.

But 19 years later, he is finally on the brink of the Hall of Fame and loving every minute of it.

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