Offensive tackle Anthony Munoz of the Cincinnati Bengals.   Anthony Munoz - Cincinnati Bengals - File Photos (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Offensive tackle Anthony Munoz of the Cincinnati Bengals. Anthony Munoz - Cincinnati Bengals - File Photos (AP Photo/NFL Photos) — NFL

Anthony Munoz is one of six Pro Football Hall of Famers who'll be in attendance as we unveil the entire Team For the Ages at "Football Legends LIVE!" Sept. 8 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Tickets are on sale now:

This feature originally ran in Pro Football Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 6, August 1998

When asked what he’s most proud of about his 13-season career with the Bengals, Anthony Munoz is quick to answer.

“I think it’s the four touchdown catches,” says a laughing Munoz.

Four touchdown catches in 13 years?

That’s the best he can come up with? The man was a first-round draft pick in 1980. He was named to 11 straight Pro Bowls, in addition to the numerous other awards and honors he picked up along the way. He played in two Super Bowls. And this guy is proudest of his four touchdown receptions?

“I mean, it’s a thrill because it’s something that hardly ever happens,” Munoz says, on behalf of his fellow offensive linemen.

During his career, Munoz caught a total of seven passes, four of which went down for scores. That means Munoz scored 57.1 percent of the time he had the ball in his hands. Jerry Rice, perhaps the most spectacular wide receiver in the history of football, scores on less than 15 percent of his receptions.

Take that, Jerry.

While Munoz fondly remembers his rare opportunities to bask in the glory of scoring a touchdown, at least equally important to him is the durability he showed during his pro career.

Coming out of USC, many people thought he had the potential to be a Hall of Fame offensive tackle. However, he was hardly the definition of “durable” during his days as a collegian. Munoz played only one full season in college and had three knee operations in four years.

But he overcame those injuries to become one of the most dependable tackles ever to play in the NFL — missing just three contests due to injury — and he fulfilled his Hall of Fame potential, too, earning a place among the class of ’98.

“I think after what I went through in college, I’m just real thankful for the durability I had, the number of games I played,” says Munoz. “I think it wasn’t until my 11th year that I missed a game. Really, the college incidents were freak accidents. And to be able to rehab after that, and (have) that big asterisk next to my name when I was coming out, (and then) to be able to play all those games … I think that’s the thing that I really drove myself to do — to be physically ready to play every Sunday.”

When he was the third overall draft pick in the 1980 NFL draft, Munoz didn’t have grand dreams of becoming a star. He had a much simpler goal: making the team. This from a guy whose college head coach, John Robinson, said Munoz may have been the best football player he’d ever seen.

“I came out of there (USC),” Munoz says, “and again, those tags were on me. ‘If he can stay healthy, he’s got the potential to play 10 years in the NFL.’ But that stuff never clicked with me. It was always, ‘OK, just give me a chance to get into a camp and just make he team.’ And after I made the Bengals, it was kind of a year-to-year deal.”

After a little time in the league, though, the humble Munoz allowed himself to set a few loftier individual goals.

“Really, an individual goal — you had your team goals, you know, get to the playoffs, get to the Super Bowl — but then on the individual goals, basically, start every year and make the Pro Bowl. There was no looking beyond that.”

So it should come as no surprise that Munoz was surprised by his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year eligible. Munoz is just the third tackle to be selected on the first ballot, joining Forrest Gregg and Jim Parker.

“To get word that I made it on the first time on the ballot, it is overwhelming,” says Munoz. “It was overwhelming when I got word back in San Diego (during Super Bowl week), and it continues to be one of those things. It’s kind of like, ‘Did that really happen? Am I really going up there Aug. 1 to be inducted?’”

Yes, Anthony, believe it. You are going to Canton. Your bust will be unveiled and will be permanently housed with the other legends of football.

Munoz says that even though people used to tell him that he was bound for Canton, he still didn’t expect to be selected as quickly as he was. When folks told him he was a lock to go in on the first ballot, he jokingly told them he should try and get them on the selection committee.

Making the event even more special is that fact that Munoz is the first true Bengal to earn a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While WR Charlie Joiner did play for the Bengals for four seasons, he earned his Hall of Fame ticket in San Diego.

“The fact that I’m the first, that’s special,” says Munoz, who hopes that former teammate Ken Anderson someday also gets the nod. “Not only special that I made the Hall of Fame, but now here’s the first Bengal to go in there. I think that even adds more to it.”

Six years removed from his life as an NFL offensive tackle, Munoz keeps busy with his family and by doing some public-relations work for the Bengals, in addition to television commentary.

While he no longer suits up on Sundays, his name is often mentioned over the airwaves or in articles about football. When analysts and fans talk about the next great tackle, the comparisons to Anthony Munoz always come up. Jaguar OT Tony Boselli was called the next Anthony Munoz. So was Jonathan Ogden. Ram OT Orlando Pace is the latest young pup to be labeled the next coming of Munoz.

Munoz says he is flattered by being the benchmark by which current offensive tackles are measured, but he also finds it somewhat troubling.

“It’s definitely a compliment for them to say that, but I don’t think it’s fair either way,” says Munoz. “Especially for the guys coming out. Really, in any position. When they compare a guy that’s already played in the league 13 years, and here’s a kid who’s never played a down — to make that comparison. I don’t think it’s fair. But it’s gonna happen. It’s part of the game.