A Case for Canton: Why Kevin Mawae Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 21: Center Kevin Mawae #68 of the New York Jets provides pass protection against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 21, 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Jets defeated the Browns 10-7. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

This year marks the third year of eligibility for former NFL center Kevin Mawae to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Thus far, Mawae is one of the 15 finalists to be bestowed with the honor come this summer. His career and production give a compelling argument as to why he should be included in the class of 2017.

Why Kevin Mawae Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

A Career of Elite Production

Mawae played in the NFL for 16 seasons after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 1994 NFL draft. He played his first two seasons at right guard for the Seahawks, but was moved to center at the beginning of the 1996 season – a move to a position that he would dominate for the next decade on the field.

Fans most likely remember Mawae as the dominant force that he was for the New York Jets, a team he joined in free agency in 1998. In his first season in New York, Mawae helped the Jets offense average the fourth-best yards per game mark in the NFL (357.2) and the third-ranked time of possession (32:17 per game). It was during this season that Mawae blocked for his first 1,000-yard rusher, Curtis Martin. He also earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Mawae has the distinction of blocking for five different running backs who rushed for over one thousand yards in a season. What makes this stat even more impressive is that those five backs did it a combined thirteen different times, including one very special 2,000-yard season by the Titans’ Chris Johnson in 2009 (Mawae’s final year in the NFL).

Mawae’s career ended in 2010 after not being re-signed by the Tennessee Titans and right before the 2011 NFL lockout. Serving as the NFLPA President at the time (holding the position since March of 2008), Mawae believes that the lockout, and his involvement in the negotiations that caused it, may have hastened the end of his playing career. It’s possible that his position as NFLPA President may have made some teams apprehensive to sign the aging (but still capable) veteran.

Stacking Up Against The Competition

When talking about Hall of Fame finalists, the easiest thing to do is to compare them against their counterparts already enshrined in the Hall. For Mawae, the comparisons are not only apt, but easily showcase exactly why he deserves to have a bust alongside the rest of the best centers in NFL history.

Individually, Mawae’s career accolades are about as lofty as they come for a center in the NFL. An eight-time Pro Bowler, he hung a string of six consecutive nods from 1999 to 2004 along with two other selections in 2008 and 2009. Of the eight centers currently enshrined in Canton, four have equaled or surpassed Mawae in Pro Bowl/All-Star Game selections (Chuck Bednarik – 8, Jim Ringo – 10, Jim Otto – 12, and Mike Webster – 9). Mawae also tallied eight (7 First-team and 1 Second-team) All-Pro nods during his career; a number which only Bednarik and Otto surpass (9 and 12, respectively).

The Case for Inclusion

Kevin Mawae wasn’t just a mauler at the line; he was a tactician. Cerebral and quick on his feet, Mawae redefined what was asked of a center during the 2000s. His ability to read alignments along the defensive line, coupled with his unnatural (for a center) ability to pull in the run game and lead block, made him a force to be reckoned with for a decade and a half in the NFL.

The most telling point in Mawae’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame can be found in his inclusion as part of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team. The All-Decade Team, a tradition that dates back to the 1920s for the NFL, is an honorary team named by members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. There have been nine centers selected on the First Team of the All-Decade team in the NFL – eight of which have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It is time for Kevin Mawae to become the ninth.

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