Munoz still Super

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             Anthony Munoz speaking at Tuesday's NFL Experience event. 

SAN FRANCISCO - They're getting ready to play Super Bowl 50 about an hour down the road from here on Sunday and the greatest offensive lineman who ever lived is simply pleased to have played in two of them.

Sure. Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz still shakes his head at the biggest plays of those excruciating losses. He can do it quickly and he does Tuesday just before he begins to speak to a group of 300 Hispanic students taking part in his clinic at the NFL Experience at the downtown George Moscone Convention Center.

The first thoughts flash back to 34 seconds left in Miami 27 years ago when 49ers quarterback Joe Montana hit John Taylor to erase the Bengals' 16-13 lead in Super Bowl XXIII. Then he's goes back seven more years, this time to the 49ers' goal line stand on running back Pete Johnson in Detroit in Super Bowl XVI.

 "Out of the four 1-yard line plays, the Dan Bunz tackle," Munoz said wistfully of the 49ers linebacker who had one sack in 88 NFL games. "How many plays did he make in his career? How do you stop a 225, 230-pound running back dead in his tracks?"

But when Munoz visits the Super Bowl as a clinician or a Hall-of-Famer or both, it's only the good thoughts he recalls.

"I know those were tough, but the neat thing about it is having played in two. How many guys play out of the close to 30,000 guys who played in this league, guys that are in the Hall that never played?" Munoz asked. "To play in two Super Bowls with the guys I played with. In my career those are the defining moments."

He only has to look back to the Bengals' most recent loss, last month's Wild Card classic that ended as agonizingly as those Super Bowls, to realize what he had.

"I died when the guys lost the game here recently for us," Munoz said. "We had home-field advantage twice. Played the AFC Championship game twice. Not only for us, but played in front of our fans twice. To me that was a thrill.

"You know my personality. I'm not going to let it eat me up. I'm as competitive as anybody. I'm not going to let them win those games. There are times I say, 'Man, if we would have just won one game,' but it's one of those that I'm thankful I played in those games."

He remembers more than the score. At the first northern Super Bowl in Detroit in January of 1982, the height of recreation was spinning doughnuts with cars in the frozen hotel parking lot. Then in Miami it was golfing and fishing with center Bruce Kozerski.

"It's not as much the guys that played the game, it's you come in contact with the fans," Munoz said. "It's all good in good fun. They are great memories."

Take in the sights of the Pro Bowl including the Draft and the first practice.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/NFL

On Tuesday, Munoz continued to make memories for grade-school students as part of his foundation's five-year partnership with the NFL's Play 60 program. In an effort to expose Hispanic children to the NFL and the league's program of encouraging youth activity, Munoz has combined physical drills with character-building lessons in a football-style clinic.

Along with son Michael, the Munozes have run clinics in more than 20 NFL cities, including during the summer months at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium. This is their third Super Bowl.

"We went to Chihuahua two years ago where my grandparents and grandparents are from and went to Mexico City," Munoz said. "For a lot of them it's a first-time exposure to American football. You see young ladies. The message of Play 60and character traits and team-building traits that allow you to use the character."

 Munoz says it is character that is going to determine how his Bengals bounce back from the wild lost. Like every Bengals fan, Munoz has a story to tell.

"I planned it that they were going to get the bye," said Munoz of why he was on the road watching it in a hotel on TV. "When (Vontaze) Burfict made the interception I'm thinking, 'A win! A win!' Then, 'No-oooo.' I just felt terrible."

Munoz also had his share of tough times in Bengaldom. Not only the close Super Bowl losses, but some bad years that were followed by good ones.

"Our philosophy was always just train even harder. Realize there's a lot of guys who played you and realize how hard it is," Munoz said. "I went to a Super Bowl my second year and I'm thinking the next year we'll be … no. I was at USC and we had three losses in four years. We lost 10 games my rookie year with the Bengals, I'm thinking I'm going to go jump in the Ohio River. No. You just have to use it as an incentive." 

A lot focus is going to be on running back Jeremy Hill, the guy that fumbled with 1:23 left and Munoz thinks about how he organized his character camp. He turned to former Bills head coach Marv Levy for accountability and Levy's message centered on his own Super Bowl heartbreak when faced with trying to console Scott Norwood after his 49-yard missed field goal cost Buffalo Super Bowl XXV.

"If you truly have leaders on the team guys will rally around him," Munoz said as he recalled Levy's story. "'I look up, Andre Reed walks up.  Hey Scott, if I would have caught that pass on third down … Darryl Talley (says), hey, if I would've …'  Four guys come up. The essence of accountability is team. They need guys to step up and say, 'Jeremy, come on, it wasn't all you.' They need to rally around him. That's the key, to have that support and encouragement from your teammates."

They're getting ready to play Super Bowl 50 and the greatest offensive lineman who ever lived still has an eye for the big moments.

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