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Munoz Goes From The Bengals Ring To The Next Big Thing

Anthony Munoz at last year's Bengals Ring of Honor induction.
Anthony Munoz at last year's Bengals Ring of Honor induction.

As the second Bengals Ring of Honor ballot goes before the voters this spring, one of the inaugural inductees adds another first.

Next month Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz becomes the Canton, Ohio shrine's first chief football relationship officer in a job that fits him like the Gold Jacket. After looking at the two-page prospectus outlining the position, wife DeDe asked him it had been written for him.

"I told her, 'No, that's the job description,'" Munoz recalls. "When you look at it, it's what I've been doing for the last 20-25 25 years."

Munoz, 63, a familiar Canton face as a long-time member of the Hall's Board of Trustees, easily boils down the two pages.

"It's representing the Hall of Fame," Munoz says. "With the national media, the league office, teams, and communities, along with fundraising and partnerships. Very familiar stuff."

So familiar that when Munoz agreed to take the job, the Hall wanted to make sure it didn't interfere with his stewardship of the Cincinnati-based Anthony Munoz Foundation, the 21-year-old organization that has been a staple of the Tri-State with scholarships and programs benefitting more than 50,000 youngsters.

"That's one of the great things about it," Munoz says. "I don't have to relocate."

But Munoz plans to take the Hall places. He's already been at the forefront of several initiatives involving the NFL and its shrine since his first ballot induction in 1998. They range from the Fatherhood Festival on Father's Day weekend in Canton to partnering with NFL Play 60 Character Camps that teach football skills and encourages exercise and strong character building and expanding the program into Hispanic communities.

He's quick to say the job doesn't make him "The Face of the Hall of Fame."

"Not at all," Munoz says. "We have 183 faces of the Hall. I'm just representing the members, as well as the employees and the board."

He went through a process that involved cutting a field of more than 40 candidates to five and then two before a pair of 90-minute interviews with search committees.

"I've been telling people that I'm 63 and other than when I first met with the Bengals, that's my first job interview," Munoz says.

And even that 1980 pre-draft visit to Cincinnati entailed just a medical exam and lunch at Victoria Station with Bengals director of player personnel Pete Brown and offensive line coach Jim McNally. They reached the same conclusion as Bruce Matthews, his fellow Hall-of-Fame USC offensive lineman and long-time division rival from the Oilers.

"There is not a guy more universally well-received than Anthony Muñoz," Matthews said in the Hall's press release announcing the move.

Thirty years after his last snap at Riverfront Stadium, his popularity was on display at Paul Brown Stadium this past weekend when country music legend Garth Brooks' wore his No. 78 Bengals jersey during Saturday night's sold-out concert.

Munoz, a 15-year member of the board for Brooks' Teammates for Kids Foundation, was in the building where his name and number is displayed in that first Ring of Honor class with Bengals founder Paul Brown and teammates Ken Anderson and Ken Riley.

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