By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
The Center position in football, in my opinion, has been vastly underrated. In terms of continuity or success for an offense, it all starts in the middle. The center has to know the play, snap the ball and then immediately get busy protecting his quarterback.
Amid a multitude of pre-snap decisions, the center must have an awareness that, at times, surpasses that of the QB. His reaction to what the defense is doing and the possibility of an audible from that QB ultimately determine the success of every single play. EVERY. SINGLE. PLAY.
While only ten of these unsung positional experts have been recognized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I’m pleased to say that this year there will be an eleventh: New York Jet Kevin Mawae!
A member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Kevin Mawae played tackle for most of his college career, only moving to center as a senior. Mawae’s love of the game was evident in every snap that he took.
“I just loved playing football. I started playing when I was eight years old, and my goal was to be an NFL player, there was no ‘Plan B’ for me. And, not because I didn’t have a plan, or have other options, I just didn’t want to do anything else.”
Mawae was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2nd round of the 1994 draft, he was the 36th player taken overall. He played in 14 games that first season and actually started 11 of them as a rookie at right guard. He was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team. But by 1996 he was moved to his permanent home position: Center.
He moved on to the New York Jets in 1998. He anchored a Jets offensive line that led the way for 44 100-yard games and seven 1,000-yard seasons by Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. Noted for his leadership and consistent play, Mawae helped the Jets to a division title and championship game appearance during his first season there in 1998.
When I was a young Jets fan, my parents took me to Jets vs Dolphins in the Meadowlands. At the end of the game @KevinMawae threw me his gloves and a guy jumped in front and took them. Mawae yelled at the guy “give those to the kid”. Class on and off the field. Congrats! pic.twitter.com/1emUnXhwm4
— Justin (@JustinSaporita) July 27, 2019
During his career, he blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons and five different running backs (Chris Warren, 2; Martin, 7; Travis Henry, 1; LenDale White, 1; and Chris Johnson, for the Tennessee Titans in 2006. He retired in 2009 after sixteen seasons – 241 games – at center.
“Kevin was dynamic. He’s a great guy. On the field, he wasn’t a nice guy. That’s what I loved about him. I felt I literally had my big brother out there with me. To be as good a person as he was off the field and as nasty as he was on the field, he had the perfect personality for an offensive lineman.” – Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin
Even after he moved to the Tennessee Titans in 2006, his performance stayed top of the line. He capped his career with a Pro Bowl season by paving way for the 2,000-yard performance by Johnson. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls including those final two seasons at Tennessee.
— Kevin Mawae (@KevinMawae) July 27, 2019
For my fellow numbers geeks, here are some useless but fun facts about Mawae and the Pro Football Hall of Fame: 11th Center, 10th born in Georgia, 5th from LSU and 4th to wear the number #68.
Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8