Jim McNally, the Bengals offensive line guru, always calls left tackle Anthony Muñoz, "The greatest who ever lived," and that's what Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells had in mind when he gazed at the crowd during some long forgotten function.
Also in attendance was the team doctor that Parcells learned had advised the New York Giants not to touch Muñoz in the 1980 NFL draft because of his knee injuries.
"Doc, I guess Anthony wasn't good enough to play in the NFL physically right?" is how Muñoz remembers Parcells saying it as the doctor no doubt hid behind a napkin.
"I think a little more than half the teams failed me," says Muñoz in the latest Old School Scribe Podcast highlighting the 40th anniversary of his 1981 AFC champs. "Like anything else, a lot of times it takes just one. And it took one team to say, 'Hey, we're going to draft you,' and I'll always be thankful to the Bengals."
Muñoz, 62, the lone member of the Hall of Fame who played his entire career with the Bengals, details how he acquired the drive to reach Canton. It began in the middle of the railroad tracks meandering through Ontario, Calif., during a hardscrabble youth his mother raised five children working back-breaking jobs that included picking grapes and packing eggs on chicken farms. The daily lesson gave rise to his own punishing work ethic highlighted by five-mile runs twice a week during the season and painstaking offseason study of technique
"I didn't want to go back to that (environment). I believe with that work ethic I was going to be successful in anything I did," Muñoz says about nine minutes into the podcast. "I have to prove to Paul Brown, this team, that they made the right decision. I heard the noise. This guy can't even get through a season, this guy gets hurt all the time."
Other highlights of the 45-minute conversation:
- Yes, he did put Bengals head coach Forrest Gregg on the ground the first time they met. And it was Gregg that walked Muñoz out to the practice field that day 40 years ago he was named to the first of his 11 straight Pro Bowls.
"Let me give you a piece of advice," he remembers Gregg telling him. "I'm all ears. He's the greatest player Vince Lombardi said he coached." (3:00)
- Life on that 1981 offensive line. Why McNally became one of the most revered offensive line coaches of all-time and why he felt it so valuable to play next to guard Dave Lapham during the first four seasons of his career.
"It was like having a coach next to you. Very, very smart. I think his physical ability gets overlooked by his intellectual ability. He was a very, very good player." (17:00)
- A brainy player himself, Muñoz is always on the look out for smarts. That's what he loves about Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
"The thing that impresses me is how he handles it up top and runs the game and the decisions he makes during the game." (38:00)
- Muñoz, who says a bounty caused one of his three knee injuries at USC, completed only one game his senior season and it was in the Rose Bowl. Even though Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell missed all last season, Muñoz says 41 years later he'd take another Pac-12 tackle at No. 5.
"I knew you'd ask me a penny for my thoughts." (36:00).
- Muñoz, one of two Hall players serving on the shrine's board, reflects how the 1998 election changed his life and how disappointed he is losing Super Bowl XVI probably is the reason teammates Ken Anderson and Ken Riley have yet to join him in Canton.
"Even if we don't win that game they should be in," says Muñoz, who lobbies the senior committee annually. "But I believe if we win that game, Anderson and Riley are right there with (Nos.) 13, 14 and 78."
- As he celebrates the 20th anniversary of his wildly successful charitable foundation that centers on giving youth of all backgrounds the chance to succeed as leaders, Muñoz is amazed how it has flourished despite the pandemic. It turns out he can reach more schools and groups virtually throughout the county and not just greater Cincinnati or southern California. It's not just a full-time unpaid job. It's a passion.
"We've got scholarship recipients leading multi-million dollar companies," says Muñoz, proud of his burgeoning, efficient staff that refers to him as the senior intern. "I do everything but sign in and log my hours." (31:00)