Originally created 08/01/98

Munoz awaits wrenching day at Hall of Fame



Anthony Munoz was a granite-hard, unyielding force during his 13 years as a Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman. At 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds, little could make him flinch.

But he fears what is coming Saturday on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

He is to be presented for induction by his 17-year-old son, Michael.

"I haven't asked him and he hasn't discussed with me what he's going to say," Munoz said. "The big question is, am I going to be able to make it through my speech?"

Munoz, elected in his first year of eligibility, will be inducted along with Mike Singletary, Paul Krause, Dwight Stephenson and Tommy McDonald.

"To think of the great players you remember growing up and to be included in that arena is very significant," Singletary said.

The latest induction class took a variety of turns on the road to Canton.

McDonald came from the tiny town of Roy, N.M., and at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds was deemed too small for the pros.

But he went on to star at receiver for five NFL teams from 1957-68. McDonald, who turned 64 Sunday, had to wait 24 years after he was first eligible before an old-timers committee selected him.

"For some reason, I always seem to be in the right spot at the right time," he said. "It's unbelievable."

He broke down when he began to talk about his father, who died in 1994. Clyde McDonald, a power-line troubleshooter, used to wager that his adolescent son could outrun all challengers -- and he almost always won his bets. The elder McDonald was one of the few people who knew his son had what it took.

Krause spent 16 years in the NFL, including 12 with the dominant Minnesota Vikings of the 1960s and '70s. He redefined free safety, reading offenses while the Vikings' front wall and linebackers cut off a quarterback's escape routes.

The result was an NFL-record 81 career interceptions. But Krause knows he will never go down as the league's most feared tackler.

"I might not have made the prettiest stick on a ball carrier," he said. "I'd just grab hold and call for help."

Singletary was the youngest of 10 kids from a poor Houston family who went on to spend 12 years as a crushing linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

Intense and rigorous in his preparation, Singletary was the soul of the Bears' defense, finishing first or second in tackles 11 years in a row.

While he piled up accolades -- including 10 Pro Bowl selections -- he also collected mentors and friends.

"The list of people to thank gets longer," he said.

Stephenson starred at a center for a series of explosive Miami Dolphin teams from 1980-87.

Even though the Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant called him the best center he had ever coached, Stephenson frequently was overshadowed. But he didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated by teammates.

"For a long time, he wasn't recognized as the best center to ever play and I believe he is," Dolphins quarterback and Hall of Famer-in-waiting Dan Marino said.

"I've never been one to promote myself," Stephenson said. "I wanted my career and what I did as a player to speak for itself."

Much the same could be said of Munoz, whose professional future was clouded by three knee operations before he left Southern California.

"We moved about three years ago and among the things we dug up was a 1980 article that had my name atop the offensive tackles -- but with an asterisk," Munoz said. "I heard it all -- that I was lucky to be drafted, that the Rose Bowl would be a great way to end my career."

So in addition to blocking rushing linemen, "I had to block the naysayers," he said.

Eleven Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls, and 11 All-NFL teams later, Munoz is joining the greatest to play the game.

"I've been blessed," he said.

Singletary will be presented by his wife, Kim, while Don Shula will make his sixth appearance as a presenter on behalf of Stephenson. Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns will introduce Krause, with sportswriter/producer Ray Didinger presenting McDonald.

Pittsburgh will play Tampa Bay in the annual Hall of Fame game Saturday evening at nearby Fawcett Stadium.