Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
ATLANTA — The wait is over for former Titans offensive lineman Kevin Mawae, and it was worth it – he’s been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mawae was voted into the Hall of Fame here on Saturday, the day before Super Bowl LIII.
“I was supposed to have my wife record (my reaction), but I threw my phone across the room,” Mawae said after learning the news. “And I think I had a higher vertical today than I did at the draft.
“It’s overwhelming, it really is.”
Mawae played 16 NFL seasons (1994-2009), including four seasons with the Titans (2006-09). He began his career with the Seahawks and also played with the Jets before retiring after the 2009 season in Tennessee. Mawae was named to eight All-Pro teams, and eight Pro Bowls during his career while playing in 241 career games.
Former Titans offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson was also almost the finalists, but he wasn’t voted in. Hutchinson played in 169 games over 12 NFL seasons with the Seahawks, Vikings and Titans, from 2001-2012. He played in 2012 with the Titans.
Prior to Hall of Fame weekend in previous years, Mawae got his hopes up, but twice before he was disappointed.
On Saturday, Mawae received good news.
Mawae became the first established Titan without connections to the Houston Oilers to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Randy Moss was also elected to the Hall of Fame, but played just eight games with the franchise during the second half of the 2010 season.
“The history of the Tennessee Titans going all the way back to the Houston Oilers is significant,” Mawae said. “There’s a number of Hall of Famers and legendary coaches and teams. To be the guy that is strictly a Tennessee Titan, it is special. It is special for the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville, and for the guys who are there now. We did some special things in the four years when I was there and I hope that I left a legacy there that the guys that come after me in that city and on that team would hope to achieve some of the things I did or hopefully make a bigger mark for themselves.
“So it is not lost on me that … I am just a Tennessee Titan and not a Houston Oiler/Tennessee Titan. It was special. It was special to be a part of that organization and I am thankful. I am thankful to Jeff Fisher for bringing me there and for Mike Munchak.”
Former Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, previously told Titans Online he thought Mawae deserved to get in.
“I gained a much greater appreciate for Kevin when he went to Tennessee and Mike Munchak coached him,’’ Matthews said. “I had known Kevin and played in the Pro Bowl with him. The thing I always appreciated about Kevin was he was a team-first guy. He would have been a teammate I would have enjoyed playing with. When I was playing and he was still at Seattle or the Jets, he is a guy that watched. I think he is definitely deserving.”
Mawae blocked for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin with the Jets, and for running back Chris Johnson during his 2,006-yard season in Tennessee. According to Elias, Mawae played 90 games in which there was a 100-yard rusher, the most by any offensive lineman.
“I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for him,’’ Martin said of Mawae. “It would make my day to see him get in there. Kevin was more like a fullback playing center, and the feet that he had were unbelievable. He was just as quick as tight ends, the way he played. So we were able to have a much larger running package because of what he was able to do.”
In 241 career games, Mawae protected quarterbacks with his life. He was durable – he played in 177 consecutive games during one stretch. He was a first-team, all-decade center for the 2000s.
Mawae blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons. Running backs Chris Warren (1,545 yards in 1994), Martin (1,697 in 2004), LenDale White (1,110 in 2007) and Johnson (2,006 in 2009) had the highest season rushing total of their career with Mawae on the line.
Shaun O’Hara, who played center for 11 seasons with the Giants and Browns, has always been a fan of Mawae’s as well.
“There wasn’t a block that he couldn’t execute or master, whether it was a back block on a 350-pound nose guard or reach-blocking a shaded nose guard,’’ O’Hara said of Mawae. “He was big on pulling out on a lot of outside plays, which not a lot of centers could do. And he was a very tough guy, and the fact he played as long as he did was a testament to his work ethic and durability. He is absolutely a Hall of Famer in my mind. He is one of the best centers to ever play the game, so I am certainly pulling for him this weekend. I know he’ll get it. It is not a question of if, it is really just when.”
Mawae will officially be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in August.
On Saturday night, Mawae thanked over a dozen former teammates and coaches with the Titans.
“All those guys going in with me, Mawae said. “To wear the T on my helmet with the flames, that was pretty neat. It was a great way to end my career. I loved living in Nashville and I still feel like I am a part of that town. This is for them, for all those guys that wore that blue and white with me.”