LOS ANGELES, July 20, 2014 — At the 2014 NFL owners meeting in Orlando back in March, it was a pleasure to meet retired Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz. The Hall of Famer Muñoz is considered by many to be the best left tackle to ever play the game and in the conversation mix for the best overall offensive lineman.
He was also an admired football citizen, winning the Bart Starr Man of the Year award in 1989 and the same honor named after the legendary Walter Payton in 1991.
Muñoz’s son played college football, and father and son were sitting together as the elder Muñoz answered questions. He was beyond gracious with his time, and his football intelligence is matched only by his overall intelligence and thoughtfulness.
Despite being a grinder on the line, his initial list of football heroes did not include offensive linemen. Muñoz started by listing the great “Fearsome Foursome” Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Merlin Olsen. Munoz offered up Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr next. Another hero Muñoz mentioned was another player from Vince Lombardi’s Packers, Forrest Gregg. Gregg went on to coach the Bengals.
Muñoz stayed within the sports world for his heroes outside of football. First came the great Brookes Robinson. Then came Juan Nirschel.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered 100 years from now, Muñoz became very serious. Muñoz is a humble man who is religious. He wanted his legacy to be that of a, “Go fearing man who tried to be obedient.”
His advice for people entering the world of football for the very first time was optimistic. Neophytes should “learn as much as you can and enjoy it.”
When Muñoz played, the topic of homosexuality was taboo. One of the big NFL stories in 2014 is the first openly gay player attempting to get drafted. The Michael Sam question is an important one. Should we hear his name and think of his sexuality, or just think of him as any other football player? While the eventual goal is to have Sam’s sexuality be irrelevant, the first person through any major door is a big deal. Muñoz thoughtfully responded that, “We are not at a point where we should hear the name and just think football.”
Muñoz is a big man who is still in great shape. He also has a self-effacing sense of humor. When asked how his three point stance was and if he was ready to be drafted, he laughed. He said, “I can still get in a three point stance. I just can’t get out of it with much velocity. I am 25 years from being drafted.”
Anthony Muñoz was actually drafted out of the University of Southern California 34 years ago, but in his condition a decade later he still would have been a top draft pick.
Rarely does a man with that much talent also possess an equal amount of humility. For this and so many reasons, Anthony Muñoz remains a great ambassador for the NFL.