Acquired in a 1975 trade with the Cincinnati Bengals, the transaction opened Walters’ eyes and as it would turn out, shape his future.
“Three years in Cincinnati and then all of a sudden to get traded, I guess that really woke me up and taught me that it was a business,” Walters said. “It was a hard adjustment the first year, but it worked out for the best. Dick Vermeil took over the team (as the head coach in 1976) after the one year I was with Mike McCormack, and things started to turn around.”
In 1978, Philadelphia posted its first winning record in 13 seasons and made the playoffs. Walters was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, the first Eagles offensive lineman to be chosen for the game since Bob Brown in 1968.
“That was quite an honor," said Walters, who would also be chosen for the following year’s Pro Bowl. “I think if you look at offensive linemen, their selection to the Pro Bowl usually depends a lot on how the team does. I felt very good making it, but I would say the year before when I didn’t make it, I had just as good a year.”
The Eagles would have a great year in 1980. Compiling a second-straight 12-4 record, they won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XV, where they fell to the Oakland Raiders.
“It was nice to get there, but disappointing that we didn’t win the game,” Walters said. “That might have been our worst game of the year as a team. But it was exciting. The Super Bowl at that time was a major event, but now it's become a spectacular event.”
Walters retired following the 1983 season and is understandably proud of his career’s longevity of having played 12 years.
“Not only do you have to be healthy and stay physical and maintain stuff in the offseason to get ready to go to work, but every year you’ve got defensive coaches looking at your tapes and trying to dissect how to beat you,” explained Walters. “And every year, you have to adjust and you have to get better to withstand that challenge.”
Walters may have retired as a player, but he would still have a job to do on gamedays. However, now instead of wearing a helmet, he wore a headset. That’s because just two weeks after his final game, Walters auditioned with Eagles play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese, and was hired as the team’s radio analyst.
“At the first preseason game, I was able to go into the locker room before the game,” Walters said. “It’s hard to put into words, but I was back near the offensive linemen and they were getting ready to go out and play. I said, ‘Good luck.’ Probably the same thing I said to them maybe 50 or 70 times when I was their teammate. And when I said it, there was no answer. I realized that I was no longer part of the team.
“As close as you are as a team and to teammates, once you’re not going out on the field there’s a wide gap between playing and not being a member of the team. I remember that hit me. Friends and everything, but that teamwork bond had been cut.
“I had no problem as far as being able to criticize former teammates because I played with a bunch of good guys who when they missed a tackle or missed a pass, they knew it. That’s the way I felt. The one thing that we had that was maybe through Coach Vermeil’s influence was that effort was there. Once you start accepting a paycheck as a professional football player, it’s no longer how hard you try. That’s for college, for high school. The final result is: did you get the job done? I think that all the players that I played with knew that so I didn’t have any problem criticizing them because I knew that they would be self-critical themselves.”
Viewing the game from the broadcast booth was a new experience for Walters. The same could be said for the view he now had of Philadelphia’s fans.
“As a player, I never appreciated the impact of the Eagles and what the players do to the city. What the team winning and losing does for the city,” said Walters. “As a player, I never really saw the fans in the stands. We get there two or three hours before the game, go into the locker room and come out and play. I never really saw that as a player. Well, I might have saw it, but I never really felt the intensity as I did in the broadcast booth. It showed me the impact of the team.”
Still following the Eagles from his home in Atlanta, Walters and his wife, Kathy have two adult children: Stanley, a freelance writer, and Elizabeth, who works for an automotive distribution company.
Walters is enjoying his retirement by playing golf and trout fishing in the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. And he also makes four trips a year to Isla Morada in the Florida Keys to get in some fly fishing.