Mike Munchak Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame
August 4, 2001
Bruce Matthews (presenter):
The Saturday before the Super Bowl this year, I was down in Orlando, Florida with my three oldest children - Steve, and Kevin, and Marilyn and I was accepting an award from the NFL Alumni. That Saturday morning we went out to breakfast at the IHOP and I was scanning the sports page and a sudden feeling of panic came over my body as I realized that the 2001 Hall of Fame Class would be announced later that day.
And what it was all about was whether my former teammate, my current line coach with the Tennessee Titans, and my friend Mike Munchak would make it. Fortunately, we had a day planned at Universal Studios and needless to say I forgot all about it.
I got back to the hotel. I called my wife Carrie to see what was happening and she asked me excitedly if I had heard about Mike. And, I said 'no.' She said that he had made it. And I go, 'made what?' And then she told me the Hall of Fame. Needless to say, I called Mike up. We were very excited for him and the highlight of the day was how Mike telling me about the chaos of how he learned about it and all the wild stuff that happened up in Nashville afterwards.
And, also the fact that I'm up here instead of down in Nashville scrimmaging against the Indiana Colts isn't a bad perk of being an announcer either.
I met Mike in 1983 at training camp in San Angelo, Texas when the Houston Oilers had drafted me. My first impressions of Munch was that he was quiet, and more importantly, he could lay out a lot of pain on the football field. The guy was impressive in his uniform to say the least. He had these big ole guns and it looked like the good Lord just slapped flesh on his shoulders and triceps where it wasn't on other people.
I think the fortunate thing that for me as a player was that I had the type of player that I wanted to be like playing on the same line as me. When we watched film, I would first watch to see how I did on the play, and then I would watch Mike to see the way that it was supposed to be done. Playing alongside Mike and following his example is a huge part of what has made me the player that I am.
He set a standard of excellence that myself and every offensive lineman who played with him has tried to emulate. The hits that he put on linebackers were legendary and they were frequently the topics of many mealtime conversations with the Oilers. One play that comes to mind was a shot that he put on a Browns defender whom I hold in high regard - cause it's my brother Clay. On a screen pass in 1992, Mike ran out in the flat and the defender, he saw him coming for about five yards. Mike hit him, the guy gyrated through the air five yards back and it was one of the most awesome hits that I had ever seen. And, our free-spirited punter Greg Montgomery later commented that it looked like a cat getting hit by a pickup truck.
Probably the greatest thing I respect about Mike, other than the level that he played, was his ability to overcome pain and still play at an all-pro level. Later in his career, Mike had come out of some games and not practiced because of his ailing knees. To be honest, you never would have known it by watching the game films. It wasn't until he retired after the '93 season that it occurred to me just how bad it was. To be honest, I thought he had two or three more years from watching the film but obviously the man was in pain and I have a great deal of respect for him and all that he overcame.
After Mike retired, he stayed on as a coach, an offensive line coach - my coach. And, we've never had a problem balancing our friendship and the player-coach relationship. I believe that I'm one of the very few players, if ever, who has shared the kind of relationship that I have had with Mike right now, and it's something that has kept me on playing and helped me be the player that I am.
Mike believes that there are few basic fundamentals that if you can master as an offensive lineman, you can be successful on every play and he hammers them into us daily, almost too often as a matter of fact. I sometimes have to chuckle though, when the rookies come in and they are 'yes sirring' and 'no sirring' coach Munchak and they're shaking in their boots at his every beck and call, and well I shake my head, but. Munch doesn't scream much, he doesn't raise his voice much but when he speaks, there's an authority in it because we recognize that there isn't anyone who has ever done it better than him so we better darn well listen to what he's saying.
I must admit though, that there are times during games when things aren't going so well for the vaunted Titan offense that Mike will give us one of those 'get fired up' speeches and I roll my eyes and shake my head and I look at what he's become and then later we'll look at each other and I'll call him out on that point, and say 'what the heck are we still doing out here?'
My relationship to Mike isn't limited to just me and him but it goes far beyond that. Mike's parents, Paula and Munie, and his five sisters are a huge part of his makeup as well. One of the highlights of my career has been the bus trips that Munie would meticulously organize and getting to know the family and spending time with them over the years. Even more has been, the relationship between my family and Mike's wife Marci and daughters Alex and Julie. They're like family to us and I cherish the many birthdays, holidays, and football games that we've shared and look forward to many more in the future. My words are insufficient to express to them how much they mean to my family and me and how much we love them. And, I congratulate all of the Munchak family on the huge part of Mike being recognized here today.
Finally, when someone says Hall of Fame to me and I realize that in the history of the league, there are only 211 members, I'm awed by the fact of the thousands and thousands of the men who have attempted to play this game. Words like excellence, integrity, and honor come to mind. Mike Munchak epitomizes that to me both on the field and off, and I don't think that there could be a better person to represent these values than him. Not only as a player but as a husband, a father, and especially as a friend.
Being asked to present Mike in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is without a doubt the greatest athletic honor that I have ever received in my life. So, to close, I would like for you to join me in welcoming my former teammate, my current line coach, and my best friend Mike Munchak as an inductee in the 2001 Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Alright, alright, here we go. I've been sitting up here the past hour, nervous as heck because I've been envisioning that any moment someone from NFL security is going to show up and say, 'Hey Munchak, what are you doing up here? Get off that stage, it's for the Hall of Famers. You're just some blue collar guy from Scranton, Pennsylvania.'
I say this because that was my initial thought when I was told of my election. How could I be a part of this elite group right here? Heck, I was thrilled when I was a kid just to have their football cards. We'd even fight over them in the neighborhood, flip over them, just try to fight for them. And now, to be part of this legendary group, you have to be kidding me.
Well, since no one is here to throw me out, I guess I can go ahead and continue with my speech. I think I'm okay.
First, and foremost, I want to thank God for blessing me and allowing me to stand here today to receive this great honor. Wow, it's, you know, it's been an unbelievable experience these past six months, from the moment I received the news of the Hall of Fame election. There's been a whirlwind of congratulatory calls from friends and family, the media attention, and making plans for this wonderful weekend in Canton. I thank the city of Canton for its warmth and hospitality these past few days. And specifically the Hall of Fame committee, especially Tammy Owens for all her hard work in getting the large Munchak group here and, I think, it looks like we've all made it. So, thank you Tammy.
Thanks also to the Hall of Fame selection committee, and especially John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, for its convincing presentation in January that helped me get here today. John, thanks also for all the kind words over the years with the Oilers, thank you.
Next, I would like to congratulate my fellow inductees, and the Hall of Fame Class of 2001. Jack, Lynn, Nick, and Ron - I don't want to age you guys but I watched you as I grew up. Jackie, I also watched you as I grew up, I continued to watch you while I played, and I still watched you when I retired. Twenty years, man, that's unbelievable. And Marv, as head coach of Buffalo, unfortunately you beat us in a lot of memorable games on your way to the Super Bowl. I would have loved playing for you. It's truly an honor to be with all of you today.
I have always loved pro football. From as far back as I can remember I spent Sundays watching the NFL on TV with my dad. My favorite part was watching that 60-minute highlight show of the past week's action narrated by John Facenda. His famous voice describing the hard-hitting action, the slow motion replays, and that great NFL music that went perfectly with the game action gave me the chills. In fact, it still does as I watch some of the highlights last night. You still get that same feeling inside of me, I feel like I was 10 years old all over again. It made me wish that some day that I could be one of those great warriors. After the games, we'd go outside with my friends - we'd pretend to be those guys. We'd pretend to be Bart Starr and throwing a touchdown pass or Lynn Swann making the acrobatic catch or Jack Youngblood - I knew that'd get some cheers - or Jack Youngblood sacking the quarterback. And Nick Buoniconti leading the "No-Name Defense." You know, it's funny, Jackie and Ron, I never pretended to be an offensive lineman. I guess now, I really know who the important guys truly are.
I stand here alone to receive this recognition but there are so many people who have influenced me along the way and I want to take this time now to thank them and let them know how much I appreciate it.
Going all the way back to Pop Warner league days, my interest in football was fostered by a group of neighborhood dads, including my own, who formed to coach our team, the Scranton Apollos - Mr. Chapman, and Mr. Gavern, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Donachie, and Mr. Farber, and my dad taught me the fundamentals of the game and they made it fun.
In high school at Scranton Central, I was a fullback and a linebacker - hard to believe, I know. Head coach Moe Decantis and his staff, especially assistant coach Ed Chase, were instrumental in my further development as a football player and a college prospect. They were a positive influence on a young teenage boy and helped to keep me in line, which I needed at times, I guess.
Then, on to Penn State. I had the opportunity to play for the great Joe Paterno. Joe was determined to find my niche and he moved me from tight end, he said I wasn't quick enough. I was there one day. To defensive tackle, I was a little too slow to play there. He moved me out three days later to offensive tackle, I was a little short for him. To center - I'm not really to sure why he moved me out of there. And then finally to offensive guard. And so I thank Joe again for finally finding me a home. After I was moved to the offensive line, I was coached by Dick Anderson. And since I had never played on the line before, he sure had his work cut out for him. I would like to thank Dick for teaching me the rest of the techniques that guided me through the rest of my career. You know, going against Bruce Clark and Matt Millen didn't hurt either in practice. Those guys had a lot to do with helping me. And to my ex-teammates, especially Chet, Rick, Leo, Scotty, what an experience. I wouldn't have made it without you guys. Thanks for your friendship over the years.
In 1982, I was drafted by the Houston Oilers. I'm truly grateful to owner Bud Adams, and general managers Ladd Herzeg and Mike Holovak for drafting me into their fine organization and for the opportunity to block for Earl Campbell, a lineman's dream. Thank you Mr. Adams and the entire Oiler organization for the privilege for working for you for the past twenty years as a player and a coach. I would also like to recognize the Houston Oiler fans - love 'ya Blue. All right. For their support throughout the years, you truly made the Dome a house of pain for visiting teams.
It was an honor to play for three very talented offensive line coaches while I was at Houston. Bill Walsh in the early years, Kim Helton in the middle, and in the late Bob Young finished up in my last four years. Each with their own unique styles, they taught me how to prepare mentally and physically for life in the trenches. Their guidance is what allowed me to become the player that I was. I've incorporated their techniques and philosophies into my coaching today.
I've had two very special, and crazy, strength coaches. Dan Riley at Penn State, who through his weight training helped me gain over 30 pounds in less than two years, which allowed me to compete on the offensive line. And to Steve Watterson with the Oilers, who for eight years not only helped me increase my strength and size - there you go Steve, it's still there, alright? - but also he's helped me do rehab on my knees which allowed me to get ready to play every Sunday. I want to thank both you guys, and again Steve, for the special relationship. Thank you very much.
The thing I miss most about playing in the NFL is the camaraderie with my teammates. The offensive line is generally a tight-knit group. And ours was no exception. Our weekly Thursday night get-togethers and frequent practical jokes in the locker room allowed us to bond in a way that carried over to our success on the field. What a great group of guys. I miss playing with them all, especially Bruce Matthews and Dean Steinkuhler, the three of us played together for a long, long time. We shared so many unforgettable memories. I thank them for that.
I put a great deal of thought into who would be my presenter today. There have been so many people who have influenced my career over the past 18 years. But my relationship with Bruce Matthews made an easy choice. We played together with the Houston Oilers for 11 years. From the first time I saw him play, I knew that we had a lot in common. We're both old school, good ol' smash-mouth football, we respected the game and how the game was supposed to be played. Bruce and I had a similar work ethic and a mutual respect. We pushed each other to the next level, we were never satisfied. I credit Bruce for making me a better player. Through football, we became great friends. He is someone I could always talk to anything about - our families, our faith, football, our joint business ventures, life in general. Our families have become close. Our kids grew up together. Bruce is like a brother to me. I love this guy. Thanks for sacrificing, Bruce, those five days of training camp to come here to present me.
Almost 400 strong have joined me in Canton this weekend. Many of my relatives have made the trip. Special thanks to my Uncle A.J., my godfather, for all his support throughout my career. Many of my friends have also traveled a long way. Unfortunately, I cannot mention them all. But specifically, I'd like to mention my high school friends - Robbie, John, Joe, Cliff, Tom, and Mike - thanks for your friendship throughout those years.
I need to especially thank now my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania for all the support they have shown me throughout my career. For 12 years, they have piled on busses to go to away games all over the East Coast. And even flew to Houston when I retired. I think that kind of following is unheard of, especially for an offensive lineman. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you all.
I know that I would not be the man that I am today without my parents. Their unconditional love for each other, and for me and my sisters, and their commitment to their 44-year marriage taught me how to be a good husband and father. I have never taken for granted the sacrifices that they made for me. They taught me integrity, and to do the right thing. They never pushed me to be what they wanted, only encouraged me to make my own decisions. I thank God every day for blessing me with the two of you.
I am very thankful for the special relationship that I have with my five sisters. Sue, Sharon, Jill, Melissa, and Tracy - I cherish our closeness and the times that we spent together. And thanks for spoiling me all these years. I love you guys. Yup.
Football has been a big part of my life. But, the most important part, without a doubt, is the relationship with my wife Marci, and my daughters Alex and Julie. They are the loves of my life. Alex and Julie, words can't express how much happiness you bring to my life. I'm so proud to have you two as my daughters and I'm really enjoying watching you grow up. Thanks for being here with us.
And Marci, you should be standing up here with me today because this would not have been possible without you. For 20 years, you helped me survive the pressures of the NFL. To win and perform by being supportive and understanding. You played nurse and psychiatrist, as you helped me deal with and get through the injuries and surgeries that came with playing in the NFL. I know it was not easy. Thanks for being my partner, my best friend, and for being such a great wife and mother. You are the best. I love you, honey.
In closing, I'd like to thank all the NFL players that came before me, especially the Hall of Famers who are here this morning. For your contributions to making this league as dynamic as it is today. Without your efforts, I never would had the opportunity to live out my boyhood dreams. To be standing on the steps of the NFL Hall of Fame, the home of the greatest men to ever play the game is proof that dreams do come true. I'm humbled to be a member of this team.