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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Munchak tuned in to get the news
By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com


TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Munchak missed his daughter's basketball game Saturday afternoon, but the consolation was what he found on television.

Mike Munchak was still playing in Houston when I was a rookie in Pittsburgh. You would always hear about running backs, receivers and quarterbacks and linebackers. But I remember going to Houston, and all the talk was about Munchak.

Players were saying, "Man, you ought to see this dude. He's unbelievable. He's a player, one of the best ever." People were in awe of his ability from the day he stepped on the field in the NFL. He earned great respect coming out of Penn State, and then carried it over to the NFL. Munchak was a dominant, consistent force on the Oilers' offensive line -- in pass blocking and run blocking.

On the tube, Munchak, a 12-year guard for the Houston Oilers, discovered that he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It came as a shock to Munchak, who said he assumed he had missed the cut this year when the 11:30 a.m. ET notification time had come and gone without a phone call. As he was preparing to leave for his daughter's basketball game, he decided to check on television to see if any network was reporting the news.

What he saw was Hall of Fame executive director John Bankert announcing his name -- live.

"I was waiting and waiting, assuming I'd get some sort of a phone call, but it never came," Munchak said. "And I never knew that in the past, they carried the announcement on live television, but there it was."

On a teleconference call with Munchak, Bankert apologized for the delay and Munchak just chuckled.

"Oh, I don't think you need to worry about that," Munchak said. "Trust me -- I appreciate it anyway."

Munchak, a devastating guard for the Oilers from 1982 to 1993, was a four-time All-Pro recipient and a seven-time member of the All-AFC team. He played in nine Pro Bowls, including seven straight from 1988 to 1994.

Munchak, one of three offensive linemen chosen Saturday, became the fourth Oiler and the sixth guard to earn Hall of Fame honors.

This is an honor that you only dream about, that seems so out there. It's great that people recognize your abilities as an offensive lineman, a position that's difficult to evaluate.
Mike Munchak, ex-Oilers guard

The former Penn State standout was a mainstay on an offensive line that played a critical role in the gradual improvement of the Houston franchise. From their dismal 0-8-1 record in the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Oilers improved nearly every year Munchak played.

The once-downtrodden franchise advanced to the playoffs seven consecutive years from 1987 to 1993 and captured the 1991 and 1993 AFC Central Division titles.

In 1988, Munchak anchored a Houston line that surrendered 24 quarterback sacks, the fewest allowed by a team in 10 seasons. The next year, the team went six straight games without allowing one sack.

"This is an honor that you only dream about, that seems so out there," Munchak said. "It's great that people recognize your abilities as an offensive lineman, a position that's difficult to evaluate."

Thanks in large part to their stellar blocking, the Oilers led the NFL in total offense in 1990 and passing offense in 1990 and 1991.

Munchak said it was extra special to be one of three lineman chosen Saturday.

"That's a surprise," he said. "When I heard Ron (Yary's) name called, I felt so great knowing how long he's waited. Then to hear me and Jackie (Slater), it's just amazing to be a part of all this."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com.





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