Mawae recalls why Hall-of-Fame's knock on the door knocked him over

Kevin Mawae photo courtesy of Tennessee Titans.

Kevin Mawae was hoping his phone would ring on HOF election day. When it did his reaction shocked him.

When Kevin Mawae finally got the knock on the door every NFL player dreams of, he'd already decided it had to be room service because he wasn't getting into the Hall of Fame.

This year, Kevin Mawae was joyfully wrong.

One of the eight Hall-of-Fame inductees in this year's class, Mawae tells the Talk of Fame Network's Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge this week that he actually told his wife on the eve of the Super Bowl that he didn't believe he'd be among those voted into the Hall that day.

With four Hall-of-Fame worthy offensive linemen on the ballot and two, possibly, three first-ballot choices in Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed and Champ Bailey, Mawae simply thought the field would be too crowded for him to be enshrined.

But it was Mawae who emerged among those four to join seven other new inductees. So what did he do when Hall-of-Fame president David Bake rapped on his hotel room door?

"I cried,'' Mawae said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "Who would have ever thought? There was a moment earlier in the day when I told my wife I didn't think I was going to get in. I just didn't have a good feeling about it.

"Then you fast forward, which was a slow fast forward three hours later when I finally did get the knock … I paused for a minute, took a deep breath, jumped out of my chair, and all I could say is 'We got it!' It was just so thrilling.''

The best and most athletic center of his time, Mawae almost invented a new position during his NFL years - pulling center. Because of his quickness and athleticism, Mawae reinvented how the position was played and thus anchored lines that regularly produced 1,000-yard rushers, regardless of which back was running behind him.

It was that style, plus his long career of excellence, that led Mawae to Canton. Yet regardless of those credentials, Mawae tells the Talk of Fame Network that he understood how long the odds are on induction because he was doing the math in his hotel room as he waited.

"Every one of the guys on that list was qualified and deserved to be in," he said, "and any one of them could have (gone). When you're sitting in that room trying to figure out if you're going to make it, each year you cross off the automatics.

"Like last year, it was Ray Lewis. This year it was going to be Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed and possibly Champ Bailey (all of whom were ultimately inducted). So then you start doing the math: If Champ gets in there's 12 guys for two (remaining modern day candidate) spots. So you don't think you're not going to get in. But you don't count that you're going to get in.''

This year Kevin Mawae did. You can hear him tell of the whirlwind that followed that knock on the door and the people who helped make it possible by tuning into the show on your local SB Nation Radio station or by downloading our free weekly podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app.

You can also access this show and all past shows and interviews at our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.

This week you'll also hear from veteran Cleveland Browns' beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot on why Browns' GM John Dorsey signed troubled former Kansas City Chiefs' running back Kareem Hunt despite a likely suspension by the NFL for Hunt's involvement in a domestic abuse scandal that occurred outside a Cleveland hotel room.

"He's got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to prove,'' Cabot said of Hunt but added that if he can turn his life around after Dorsey granted him a second chance it will have been a worthwhile gamble.

Also on the show this week is author and long-time NFL reporter Hank Gola to discuss … not NFL football … but his new book, "City of Champions,'' which chronicles the unlikely national high-school championship won by his hometown team in New Jersey over a powerhouse Miami opponent in 1938.

It's a story not only about football but about young men, mostly from first-generation immigrant families from Europe, who had a miracle season while knowing most of them would soon be marching off to a World War that by then seemed inevitable. It's an amazing story, and Gola was the right man to tell it.

You can hear all this and much more at talkoffamenetwork.com, by downloading our weekly podcast or by tuning in to SB Nation Radio each week on Wednesday and Friday nights.

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