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O-Line Frat Exults As Willie Anderson Called To Bengals Ring Of Honor

Willie Anderson on the move.
Willie Anderson on the move.

Anthony Munoz, the greatest Bengal of them all and an inaugural Ring of Honor member, is all smiles with word that fellow tackle Willie Anderson joins him on the Paul Brown Stadium façade when the second class is inducted the night of Sept. 29 in a Thursday game against the Dolphins.

"OK, so now we've got a quarterback, a wide receiver and two offensive linemen," Munoz said Wednesday when he also heard Bengals season-ticket holders voted for his Super Bowl teammate and made Isaac Curtis the first wide out in The Ring. "That's the way it should be. Get the linemen in there."

Curtis is re-united with quarterback Ken Anderson and cornerback Ken Riley, two other inaugural members who played on Cincinnati's first Super Bowl team that went in last season with Munoz and Bengals founder Paul Brown.

"Look at the first draft pick in team history," said Munoz of center Bob Johnson. "I'm not going to argue with Paul Brown. He knew him important the line is. By voting in Willie, it shows the fans do, too. I'm appreciative of the fans for recognizing an O-lineman and thrilled for both Willie and Isaac."

Willie Anderson's 12-season, 181-game legacy with the Bengals was on display in his Wednesday Media Zoom. It goes an eternity beyond his bone-jarring three straight All-Pro selections that cemented him as his generation's best right tackle. It towers over his four Pro Bowl seasons that featured some of the Bengals' best rushing and passing years in history.

He was one of those that passed the Who Dey torch, an all-time great who became a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist last year for the first time as his bid for Canton crystalized.

From the 20th century exploits of Super Bowl tackles Munoz and Joe Walter to the 21st century by mentoring any offensive lineman who asked. And that ranges from reigning Super Bowl champion Andrew Whitworth to an impending NFL rookie force in Cincinnati product, Ohio State tackle and Willie Anderson Offensive Line Academy grad Paris Johnson.

"If you walk into the Rams 2022 offensive line room right now, most of the guys would speak the same verbiage Willie Anderson speaks," said Whitworth, the Rams and Bengals recently retired left tackle. "Because here we are, decades (14 years) from him retiring and that's the same stuff I taught those guys.

"He was not only passionate about how he played, but how his line played. How their group played. I think that meant a lot to him and is one of the things I learned from him. He really made people around him better."

Anderson has recalled how Munoz's career and counsel set the bar Hall-of-Fame high and how Walter's generous mentoring helped him shepherd the offensive linemen that came after him. Walter, the right tackle for the 1988 AFC champions, was 33 and at the end when the 21-year-old Anderson arrived with the tenth pick in the 1996 draft.

"I knew when he came in the writing was on the wall for me and I knew that it was time for me to become a mentor," Walter said Wednesday. "When I came in, I looked up to Anthony and learned from him. Willie was eager to learn. He wanted to learn. He asked questions. 'How do you study?' He took it and went his way with it and was very, very successful. I've always been appreciative of what he's said about me. But he was the guy playing. He put it into action.

"He was a great player, good study and easy to work with. We got along. He would listen. He wasn't one of those prima donnas. When he came off the field, I would tell him what I saw and he listened."

Anderson made sure he mentored rookies, too, such as Levi Jones in 2002, Stacy Andrews in 2004 and Whitworth in 2006. He still does at his Atlanta-based O-line school, where 15 of his students last year received college scholarships.

On Wednesday, Anderson reflected how he got into coaching kids when he steered son Jair to a Georgia Tech scholarship without ever playing a snap of wide receiver and learned the position by You Tube watching Chad Ocho Cinco and Terrell Owens.

This was also the same guy who prayed Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jordan would journey to his hometown of Mobile, Ala., and tell him how to make it.

"I coach guys in the pros, but my heart's in high school kids who started with nothing. Came to us with nothing," Anderson said. "We had them recruited and trained. My goal is for those kids to finish college and that there are 15 families that don't have to worry about being in debt because they came to our academy."

Whitworth saw all of that as soon as he came to Cincinnati out of LSU.

"He has a great feel for how the body works and how different it is," Whitworth said. "He can spread his technique and his mentality to people. He could communicate what he was feeling when he was doing things. That's one thing he and I were on the same page about. Both of us were guys who had a really good understanding. Not just talent. We had a really good feeling where our body was in space and we knew immediately what we did well and didn't do well without looking at the film.

"We knew what we had done with our hand or foot or where we set and he had a great feel for being able to communicate it. That's the thing I learned from him is how to put that out. He was always great at it. He's been able to spread that knowledge and continue to help people do better."

Whitworth says his former Rams line mates who went to the wire with the Bengals back in February in Super Bowl LVI know all about Anderson and what he did back in the day in Cincinnati, Ohio because he had been known to pop in some Willie film for the guys.

Like the first play of the 2004 Bengals-Giants game, a play that was snapped two years before Whitworth arrived but caught his eye when he would comb the archives for tackle vignettes from such greats as Munoz, Anderson, Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace.

"He decapitated two guys," Whitworth said. "Signature Willie Anderson. They ran the power behind Willie with that movement he used to get. He catches a linebacker trying to run in the gap and literally puts him head over heels. And the back-side defensive end just simply trying to fold over and pursue the run game, he catches him and knocks him head over heels. Just signature Willie Anderson."

Whitworth is going to be at PBS for the ceremony because reports have him working in the Thursday night Amazon broadcast booth.

"Nobody deserves it more. I can't wait just to watch it. It will be cool," Whitworth said. "To get close to the Hall of Fame and now to have this opportunity to get an amazing honor like this. He deserves to get back all the love and appreciation for all the talent and hard work he's given."

Walter, who was there at the beginning, is just as happy.

"I'm excited for him. He's the guy that deserves that. A great player who worked his tail off," Walter said. "He a special guy with a special gift. He never looked out of sorts. He always played under control. His feet were always under him. He just never looked bothered by it. Nothing ever seemed to faze him."

Munoz says there's a bond with not only former Bengals, but fellow offensive linemen. He agrees. Munoz calls it a fraternity. And another one of their own is in The Ring.

"I hope," Walter said, "the next phone call is from Canton."

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