Munoz, Anthony: 1958—: Former Professional Football Player

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Anthony Munoz: 1958: Former professional football player




Anthony Munoz was an offensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals football team in the National Football League (NFL) from 1980 to 1992. He was an 11-time All-Pro offensive lineman, and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Munoz, a devout Christian, was also known off the field as a gentleman who helped his community and the disadvantaged whenever possible.


A Young Athlete


Munoz grew up in Ontario, California, with his two brothers and two sisters. Munoz's mother, Esther, raised the family by herself, as Munoz's father left the family when Munoz was very young. Although his father lived close by, Munoz only saw him twice, once when he was five and once when he was 12 years old. Munoz told Jay Greenberg of Sports Illustrated, "I never had a father, so I never knew what I was missing. As I look back, I don't even know if I was poor. We were provided for, but we didn't have any extras." Although his family didn't have a car, they were fortunate enough to have relatives who did; his aunt and uncle often took Munoz out to dinner.

His mother worked at a local farm, packing eggs. Munoz and his brother, Tom, occasionally worked there on weekends when extra help was needed, but his mother encouraged Munoz to use his free time to pursue his athletic interests. Munoz spent much of that free time playing baseball. When he was five he looked several years older, so he was able to play in almost any game he chose. He ended up playing on so many teams that when two such teams played each other, they would end up arguing over who would get Munoz.

Although Munoz loved baseball, he was naturally big and powerful, and was often advised that he was built for football. When he was offered a football scholarship to Southern California University, he accepted it with the stipulation that he be allowed to play on the school's baseball team in the spring. However, knee injuries from playing football prevented him from playing baseball, except during his sophomore year.

In the opening game of his senior season, Munoz suffered a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. Although his coaches and teammates thought he should take a year off, he refused. He made it to that season's Rose Bowl, where he was spotted by Cincinnati Bengals' founder and general manager, Paul Brown, as well as Brown's sonsPete, who was player personnel director, and Mike, who was assistant general manager. They laughed at their good fortune in finding him. "The guy was so big and so good it was a joke," Mike Brown told Sports Illustrated. Munoz was chosen third in the draft. Many years later, Munoz modestly told SI's Greenberg, "Why would an offensive lineman get all this attention? I don't know why, but I'm fortunate. I use it as a motivator."

At a Glance . . .


Born on August 19, 1958, in Ontario, California; married DeDe Munoz; children: Michael, Michelle. Education: University of Southern California, 1976-79. Religion: Christian.


Career: Offensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals, 1980-92.


Awards: All-Pro, 1981-91; NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year, 1981, 1987, 1988; selected to NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1998; University of Southern California Athletic Hall of Fame, 1999.


Address: Office c/o Pro Football Hall of Fame, 212 George Halas Drive NW, Canton, OH 44798.




Munoz, who is known for his strong Christian beliefs, became interested in spiritual matters in college. Munoz told Andrew Chow in the Dayton Daily News that when someone asked how he was doing spiritually, he thought, "Is that what life is all aboutbeing All-American or being in this magazine or that magazine? I knew there had to be more to life than that."


Joined Cincinnati Bengals


Munoz signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1980, using the money from his first pro contract to buy his mother a house. He played with the team for 13 years, and he and his wife and children settled in Ellenwood, a suburb of Cincinnati. When Munoz began playing professional football, most of the defensive ends in the game weighed about 250 pounds. At six-foot six inches tall and weighing 285 pounds, Munoz often flattened opponents 15 or 20 times during a game. Over the years football players got bigger, but Munoz still drove five or six opponents off their feet in each game. In addition to his strength, Munoz was noted for his balance. Even when opponents changed direction, Munoz rarely fell down. Bengal offensive line coach Jim McNally told Sports Illustrated, "Anthony always makes the right adjustment." Houston Oiler defensive end William Fuller told Sports Illustrated, "He has the best feet of any tackle I've gone against. Because he has such good hand-foot coordination, you never catch him out of position."

Although Munoz was naturally large and powerful, he did not spend a lot of time in the weight room, nor did he take drugs or use steroids to increase his bulk or strength. He ran two or three miles a day in the off-season, and lifted weights three times a week. Munoz was noted for his refusal to curse or swear, and was customarily quiet on the playing field. Buffalo Bills' defensive end Bruce Smith told Sports Illustrated that the most he had ever heard Munoz say during play was two words: "I think it was after he stuck his hand in my face mask," Smith recalled. "He said, 'I'm sorry.'" During stressful plays Munoz never wasted energy getting angry, preferring to focus energy on improving his playing.

In the Denver Post, Adam Schefter quoted Bengals' defensive end Alfred Williams, who praised Munoz's work ethic: "When practice started, I'd see him running a mile to get warmed up. Then he'd come back and do the conditioning afterward with everyone else. He was amazing to watch." Munoz's wife, DeDe, told SI's Greenberg, "I don't see any contrast between what he does and the way he is. Ever watch him? It's an artistic way of playing the offensive line. He makes it look easy."

Munoz has also spent a great deal of time working with people who have handicaps, as well as helping under-privileged children and speaking to teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. In 1990 Sports Illustrated noted, "Since coming to the NFL in 1980, Munoz has begrudged every inch of ground he has given up to the league's best pass rushers, yet he has given tirelessly of himself to God, family, and community."


Retired from the NFL


Munoz retired from the NFL in 1992. During his 12 years with the Bengals, he was selected as an All-Pro offensive lineman 11 times. In April of 1994 Munoz signed on with the Fox television network to be an NFL game analyst. His previous experience in broadcasting had involved working as a guest analyst for the TNT network's "Stadium Show." He had also appeared twice as a game analyst for the CBS network's NFL coverage in 1993.

Munoz was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, and was named Offensive Lineman of the Year six times during his 13-year career. In 2000 he was named to the NFL's All-Time Team by the 36 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. In 2000 Munoz became a spokesperson for Provident Bank, signing a five-year deal with the company. Cincinnati Bengals' coach Sam Wyche summed up Munoz's life and work in Sports Illustrated, "All of us try to set examples until something goes wrong, and then we reveal our true selves. Anthony's real self is the one the rest of us try to be."


Sources

Periodicals


Cincinnati Post, April 23, 1996, p. 1D; August 28, 1997, p. 12B; July 27, 2000, p. 6B; August 2, 2000, p. 2B.

Dayton Daily News, July 3, 2000, p. 3B.

Denver Post, August 1, 1998, p. D9.

Mediaweek, April 4, 1994, p. 4.

Sports Illustrated, September 10, 1990, p. 78.


On-line


CBS Sportsline, www.cbs.sportsline.com/u/football/nfl/legends/hof/munoz.htm

USC Athletic Hall of Fame, www.fansonly.com/schools/usc/genrel/052199aaa.html

Kelly Winters