Center of Attention: Former Titan Kevin Mawae Enters Hall of Fame on Saturday

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NASHVILLE – As Kevin Mawae prepared his Hall of Fame speech, he thought about his journey.

The former Titans lineman, a 16-year pro, flashed back to his early days in the game, and reminisced about all the people who influenced him along the way.

And then he did his best to sum it up in 20 minutes.

"My daughter looked and me and said: 'There's no way it will be under 20 minutes," Mawae said with a smile. "She said: 'After you stop to cry, sniffle and all that stuff, it will be well over 20 minutes."

A tough and gritty player who played the game with an edge, Mawae admits she's probably right.

"I know it will be emotional," he said. "I get choked up over reading it. There are some parts I get the sniffles looking at it. It's an emotional deal, a speech of a lifetime. But I'll be OK."

Mawae was more than OK as a player.

Mawae played from 1994-2009 in the NFL, including four seasons with the Titans (2006-09). He began his career with the Seahawks and also played with the Jets before retiring after the 2009 season in Tennessee. Mawae was named to eight All-Pro teams, and eight Pro Bowls during his career while playing in 241 career games.

On Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, he will officially be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Mawae estimates he'll name 15-20 people in his speech, which will be attended by many of his former teammates in Tennessee. Tracy Mawae, his wife of 26 years, will present him.

Mawae will become the first established Titan without connections to the Houston Oilers to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Randy Moss was also elected to the Hall of Fame, but he played just eight games with the franchise during the second half of the 2010 season.

"You go into (the Hall of Fame) as an offensive lineman, and all three of the teams I played for get recognized for it," Mawae said. "From a marketing standpoint you have to pick a color, so I am going in as a center who played for the Jets, the Titans and the Seahawks. Everything is green and white because I was with them the longest and that only makes sense.

"But my time in Tennessee, it was special. And I feel this is special for the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville, and for the guys who are there now. We did some special things in the four years I was there and I hope that I left a legacy there that the guys that come after me in that city and on that team would hope to achieve some of the things I did or hopefully make a bigger mark for themselves. … It was special to be a part of that organization."

Titans coach Mike Vrabel praised Mawae when asked about him this week.

In 241 career games, Mawae protected quarterbacks with his life. He was durable – he played in 177 consecutive games during one stretch. He was a first-team, all-decade center for the 2000s.

Mawae blocked for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin with the Jets, and for running back Chris Johnson during his 2,006-yard season in Tennessee. According to Elias, Mawae played 90 games in which there was a 100-yard rusher, the most by any offensive lineman.

Mawae blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons. Running backs Chris Warren (1,545 yards in 1994), Martin (1,697 in 2004), LenDale White (1,110 in 2007) and Johnson (2,006 in 2009) had the highest season rushing total of their career with Mawae on the line.

"Well, you're talking about effort and finish and grit, and he had it," Vrabel said of Mawae. "I don't know if he needed his hearing checked but I don't know if he ever heard the whistle. I think he heard the echo of the whistle. I became friends with him, close friends with him.

"He played with a grit and determination. He was always on his feet, he was always great on screens. If there was a big play on a screen, he was always right in front of it. That was always one tip, just follow (Kevin) Mawae and he'll take you to the screen."

This week, Mawae recalled some of his most memorable moments in Tennessee.

The 60-yard game-winning field goal by Rob Bironas to beat the Colts in 2006 came to mind.

"That was a special victory for us," he said. "I remember that game fondly."

He'll never forget the 99-yard drive engineered by Vince Young in 2009, when the Titans beat the Cardinals on a touchdown pass to Kenny Britt on the final play.

"That 99-yard walk-off ," Mawae said. "That was a great game."

Johnson's 2,006-yard season was special, too. Johnson reached the mark in Seattle, and the key offensive players for the Titans posed for a photo on the field after that game.

"We were chasing Eric Dickerson's record, and we almost got it," Mawae said. "And that was the last game of my career, not counting the Pro Bowl, and it happened in Seattle, where I was drafted. So my whole career came full circle in that last game. … It is a memorable moment for me."

Mawae also remembered the Thursday night dinners with the offensive linemen, the way his family enjoyed Nashville, and the fans.

He remembers being the old guy in the locker room, and how the kids in the locker room kept him feeling young.

On Saturday night, the memories will all come flooding back as he makes his Hall of Fame speech.

Forgive him if he gets choked up.

"All I ever wanted to do was play football, and I had a blast," Mawae said. "I want people to know it just didn't happen, not for me or any of the guys on that stage. It was a lot of hard work and commitment, and it's not just yourself that does it. It's a plethora of people that help you get there, and it's a journey. It's about the journey and the lessons that I learned through football and the people who taught me those lessons, whether it be coaches or teachers.

"It was a long journey and a lot of people played a part of it, and I am so thankful."

Titans Online looks back at the Titans career of Hall of Fame center Kevin Mawae, who played in Tennessee from 2006-09. (Photos)

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