NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Kevin Mawae was a free agent looking for a final stop in 2006, a team that had faced him twice a year during his eight seasons with the Jets wanted him.

Zach Thomas battled with Mawae on a twice-annual basis in the AFC East. The way Thomas remembers it, he was with coach Nick Saban at a dinner trying to court Mawae to Miami.

Mawae

“Saban asks me, he says, ‘Hey, Zach, what do you think his strengths are?’ Thomas remembers. “And I used to say a lot of the same stuff. And at the end, I said, ‘He’s a little nasty, he’s kind of a cheap-shot Christian, you know?’ And Nick said, ‘What’s that mean?’ [Unlocked]

“I said, ‘Well, you’d be away from the play and he’s cut you and he’d say God bless you on his way back to the huddle.’ After that, Kevin left, whatever. But Saban thought that was one of the reasons that he didn’t come to the Dolphins, I promise you. He got stiff, he said ‘That’s a little bit far.’ But it was just cause we used to go at it with each other.

“I know that wasn’t what made his decision.”

Mawae he doesn’t recall the linebacker as part of the recruitment pitch but said that he would have loved to have teamed up with Thomas with a franchise that, like the Titans at the time, was in need of some offensive leadership.

ZachThomas

“I was ready to go and even called Drew Brees to convince him to go,” Mawae said. “But three days later I hadn’t heard back and I think they were being loyal to their guy.”

That would have been Seth McKinney, who they re-signed as a free agent.

Mawae signed in Tennessee and played four very good seasons, keying Chris Johnson’s 2,006-yard rushing year in 2009.

As for the cheap-shot Christian thing... It took Mawae a while to come to terms with it.

"After that I told them if they didn’t like it, take it up with God," he said. "I believed He was happy with my effort and performance."

Thomas could not be a bigger supporter of Mawae’s candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where selectors have a logjam of offensive line finalists to sort through with him, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli.

“I promise you, when you’re game planning the Jets, he’s the first person we talked about. It wasn’t Vinny Testaverde. It wasn’t stopping Curtis Martin. This Kevin Mawae, he was their leader. That’s respect right there and all the guys respected Kevin.

“That’s coming from a Jet-hater, I promise you that. He’s probably the reason I hate the Jets so much. But I respected him and he respected me. He brought it. He was non-stop.”

“He had it all. He was the best lineman I ever faced.”

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