NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dirty. A cheap-shot artist. Even a dirty Christian for wearing a cross on his face mask and then using every trick Kevin Mawae knew to open holes for his running back or protect his quarterback.
Mawae heard all the insults, and they bothered him.
Then the former Seahawk realized he was playing football the only way he knew how as a somewhat undersized center in the NFL.
“I wasn’t stronger and bigger than a lot of guys,” Mawae said. “Early in my career, I was considered a finesse player, and that bothered me because I wasn’t. I was a technician. And I learned my craft, and I took it to an art form in some sense that I knew what I was doing. I put my body in position to do things that guys didn’t know how to counter, and they didn’t like that.”
On Saturday, Mawae will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, capping a career of 241 games played over 16 seasons with three teams. The 6-foot-4, 289-pounder was an eight-time Pro Bowl center and a member of the league’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
Mawae, who played college ball at Louisiana State, was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round in 1994 and spent most of his first two pro seasons at guard before being switched to center in 1996.
Mawae played in 62 games — starting in 59 of them — over four seasons with the Seahawks. He played for the New York Jets from 1998 through 2005 and was with the Tennessee Titans for his last four seasons.
Mawae found it difficult just going into the bust room at the Hall of Fame this year.
“That’s where legends live, and I’m thinking about guys I played against that are there or played with or the legends I grew up watching play and I get to be among them,” he said. “And you know it’s exciting, but it’s still like you got to pinch yourself to make sure it’s still a reality.”
Mawae had a knack for making the right calls and run checks.
He started learning that skill at LSU and kept working to improve. He credits coaches and former teammates such as Ray Donaldson and Jim Sweeney in Seattle for teaching him what to look for before snapping the ball.
Mawae blocked for two of Chris Warren’s 1,000-yard rushing seasons in Seattle. When the Seahawks told Mawae he wasn’t the caliber of player he thought he was after four seasons, he became the highest-paid center in the NFL in 1998 playing for coach Bill Parcells with the Jets.