(Note: Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Muñoz of the Cincinnati Bengals was a rookie when he first faced and the division rival Houston Oilers in 1980. The two players battled twice a year through 1983 when Bethea retired following a 16-year Hall of Fame career. The two will be back together on August 3rd when Bethea is formally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Muñoz will be on stage as one of the record number of returning Hall of Famers taking part in the NFL Homecoming.)
Well, first of all Elvin, I remember when I faced you; you were getting towards the end of your career. But, that wasn’t a factor because you were not only physically playing at the top of your game but also mentally. You had all those years of experience and here I was a young guy across from you.
I remember watching tape leading up to the first game. I knew it was going to be a physical game and with your experience it was going to be a mental challenge also. And, it was exactly that. You were one of the top guys I faced early in my career.
We had a lot of very physical battles with the Oilers. I had a Hall of Fame defensive end playing across from me. At that time, your defense was excellent. Elvin, you had a cast of very good players around you. On Monday morning, I was feeling it.
Elvin, you were one of those guys, who could make adjustments on the move, it didn’t take you long to make adjustments. You were certainly a great one!
In those days, you had to prepare for a guy like you against both the run and the pass. You were a full-time defensive end. You weren’t the type of guy who would play against the run on first and second down and then have a substitute on third down. You were a guy who was excellent against the run. I knew that all my footwork and leverage had to be 100 percent right on or I wouldn’t be successful against a guy like you. And, then after I thought about that, all of sudden we had to pass block against you. Even at the latter part of your career, you still had the quickness.
And, of course you always had the strength and the smarts to counter. Unlike later in my career when I was prepared for a defensive end against the run, and then we knew they’d substitute a guy in a passing situation - you were one of those full-time guys who were going to play. As many plays as we ran offensively, you were going to play defensively. I knew it was going to be just as tough in the fourth quarter as it was in the first quarter. That was the fun thing about it, that we could play against a guy of your caliber of play the entire game. That was the challenge for me as an offensive lineman to prepare both against the run and the pass against you. I had to be at the top of my game against you Elvin.
I knew that you were one of the best in the league and I knew that after my first year of playing twice against you, that you were one of the best I’ve played against. And, even late in my career, I can say that you were one of the best I ever played against in my entire career.
When you play against the best, I always thought it brought the best out of you. Playing against guys like you Elvin, are the types of guys you measure yourself against. So, if I did well against a Hall of Famer like , it meant I was improving as a player.
I want to welcome you Elvin into the greatest fraternity, the greatest team of all-time in the greatest team sport. Over the last five years since my induction, I’ve had a chance to really get to know a lot of the guys on our team. We welcome you and we look forward to spending time with you and getting to know you on a personal level instead of a physical level. I believe you will really enjoy the time together with all the guys at all the different events up in Canton in August. We’ll have a great time!
Welcoming Committee: Marcus Allen
Welcoming Committee: Joe DeLamielleure
Welcoming Committee: James Lofton
Welcoming Committee: Hank Stram