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Storied Bengals Legends Salute New Ring Of Honor Members Isaac Curtis And Willie Anderson

Willie Anderson
Willie Anderson

From the original Bengal to the fastest Bengal to the biggest Bengal, the franchise legends mesmerized Wednesday night's East Club lounge gathering at Paycor Stadium of the Who-Dey congregation honoring Ring of Honor inductees Isaac Curtis and Willie Anderson.

In the run-up to Thursday night's halftime ceremony at the Bengals-Dolphins game (8:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 9), their teammates and coaches came from far and wide to attend a storied storytelling hour. All-time scorer Jim Breech hopped over from the record book to salute Curtis while Levi Jones came from Arizona to honor Anderson.

All the Voice of the Bengals Dan Hoard pretty much had to do was hand the mic to guys like Bob Trumpy.

Trumpy, a rookie tight end on head coach Paul Brown's first Bengals team in 1968, observed that there were only two players in his decade as a player who provided an immediate impact that changed them. He invoked quarterback Greg Cook and Curtis, the wide receiver with Olympic speed who went to four Pro Bowls in 12 seasons in Cincinnati.

Curtis sat next to his quarterback, Ken Anderson, the man who threw him 51 of his 53 career touchdowns.

"The Bengals have had some great receivers, but there'll only be one (No.) 85," Anderson said. Then, eyes twinkling, Anderson leaned down to Curtis and said, "There's a No. 1 you might have to worry about,"

in reference to Ja'Marr Chase.

Anderson told the old stand-by, how if Curtis even thought his hamstring was tight, the taciturn Paul Brown gave him the day off.

Mike Martin, the wide receiver, sang a few bars of a Marvin Gaye song to Curtis before telling a new story of sending an after-party crowd to the unsuspecting Curtis' home.

The linebacker-Cincinnati City Councilman Reggie Williams recalled cutting a record with Midnight Star to salute the Super Bowl XVI team and called on Curtis even though he couldn't sing or dance.

But the evening got pretty serious, too, with Curtis' lifelong friend, cornerback Louis Breeden, recalling how the veteran Curtis took the time to mentor him as a young player.

The same formula held true for the guys gathered around Willie Anderson, the generational right tackle who played here for a dozen seasons straddling both centuries.

Paul Alexander, his offensive line coach for the entire time, rattled off some Pro Football Focus numbers buttressing his Pro Football Hall of Fame case. Jim Anderson, who coached running backs all those years, remembered how his backs got a lot of mileage "running down Route 71," Anderson's jersey number. Ray "Rock," Oliver, the strength and conditioning coach who came from college basketball to help bring the big guys into the new century, recalled how Anderson was using new methods to take care of his body that are considered weight room staples today.

"The man's hygiene, off the charts," joked tight end Marco Battaglia, the man drafted after Anderson in the 1996 second round, spawning a series of laughs.

Still sounding like his native Queens, Battaglia recalled how he became tight with a guy from Mobile, Ala., he couldn't understand for the first three months of their rookie year.

"I mean he had a shower caddy, who does that?" asked Battaglia, who admitted he started using a loofah.

There were also a few gags about Anderson's biggest shoe in Bengals history, the storied pair of 18s. His old right guard, Ken Blackman, who helped him keep the great pass rusher Reggie White sackless in that 1998 game, was still shaking his head how most shoes had seven studs while Anderson's had 15.

Anderson's induction paved a way for an offensive line reunion that represented Anderson's reach in the franchise history. Super Bowl XXIII right tackle Joe Walter joked how the rookie Anderson would still his notes and Legend Anderson thanked him for his mentorship. Center Rich Braham said it was an honor to play with him longer than anyone else and center Brock Gutierrez, now the analyst for Central Michigan, broke down how Anderson was the best he ever saw.

But it got pretty serious pretty fast when it came to Anderson's impact on his teammates. Linebacker Takeo Spikes, his Auburn soulmate also on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, talked about how Anderson quietly provided inspiration.

Safety Herana-Daze Jones, a practice squadder for the 2005 AFC North champs, made the trip to remember how Anderson stopped him one day at lunch and told him that the team appreciated the special teamers and how they were valued in a run Jones would be the Bengals leader in special teams tackles in 2006 and 2007.

Levi Jones, the 10th pick in the draft six years after Anderson and his left tackle bookend in '05, remembered how much Anderson gave to the community and how the O-line followed his lead in the city. He recalled a night in Arizona not all that long ago when he ran into two guys from Cincinnati who remembered as kids Anderson and Jones and several other Bengals showing up to help build a playground and how much it meant to them.

"I had an uncle," Jim Anderson said, "who would say, 'That's all class."

Rock Oliver, now the executive associate athletic director at the University of Kentucky, grew up in Cincinnati following Paul Brown's first teams. He wanted to say something else to Anderson.

"My heroes are the people in my family and those guys," Oliver said. "When I get down or feel bad, I think about my heroes. Ken Anderson. Isaac Curtis. Ken Riley. Lemar Parrish …

"Welcome to the club."