CANTON, Ohio – In a stirring speech during which he gave comprehensive thanks to those who helped him arrive here, Kevin Mawae stood beside his bronze bust and began the chapter of his life during which he will be introduced as a Pro Football Hall of Famer.MawaeBust

I saw a group of Mawae supporters walking into Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium with one gentleman in green Jets’ jersey and another in his Titans’ blue 68.

Over 26 minutes and 50 seconds, he hit the speech out of the park, with lovely tributes to his parents, brothers, kids, in-laws and his wife, Tracy, who presented him. That included some tears as he remembered his brother John, who was killed in an alcohol-related car accident.

He paid tribute to the Hall of Famers he admires, to the coaches and teammates who helped lift him here – from his childhood teams to his final football stop with the Tennessee Titans -- and to all levels of staff that play a largely unseen role in helping a player succeed. 

Each of those Titans was mentioned, as were Alge Crumpler (who is also here) and Vince Young.

Ultimately, Mawae asked all his teammates from any stage of his career to stand.

“You are teammates, you are friends, you are my brothers,” he told them. “We did this. Kevin Mawae didn’t do this.” [Unlocked]

He thanked Jeff Fisher and Floyd Reese for bringing him to Tennessee, regarding him as “a leader and a culture-changer” and he shouted out Mike Munchak for teaching him how to properly respect opponents and to be a professional in all that he did. As the screen beside him showed Munchak on stage in his own yellow jacket, Mawae said he was proud to now rank as a “teammate for life.”MawaeStage

Mawae ran through equipment managers, medical staffs, strength coaches, and chaplains – mentioning them from each of his stops, including Paul Noska by his nickname, Hoss, Brad Brown, Steve Watterson and Reggie Pleasant. Only Noska is still with the team.

And as Mawae listed off his NFLPA compadres, one of the pictures that flashed behind him included a laughing Mike Vrabel, another key union leader when Mawae was at the forefront for the players.

The new Hall of Famer discussed his faith and the platform his career gave him to preach it.

Most touching were the tributes to his parents. His dad, David, is an Army veteran he said taught him to never cut corners, to never look unprepared, and not to half-ass anything. His mom taught him respect and obedience with expectations, and she played tackle football with her four sons.

“True story,” he said. “She hit hard.”

Kindly, Mawae thanked the Hall of Fame selection committee during his speech, mentioning three of us who led his presentation. That was quite nice of him -- and quite unnecessary.

My small role was helping amplify what was a clear-cut case.

Zach Thomas and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks told me their defenses game-planned for Mawae. The last center anyone talked about like that was Dermontti Dawson. He was inducted in 2012 and it was time for the next great guy at the position to join him.

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