Anthony Munoz is commonly referred to as the greatest-ever NFL lineman. In an age where we love to rank and list everything, he is routinely listed as the top lineman by his peers. This was evident in his playing days with the Bengals, when Munoz was the Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1981, 1987, and 1988, and was awarded the NFL Players Association Lineman of the Year honor in 1981, 1985, 1988, and 1989. The NFL Alumni Association voted Munoz as the Offensive Lineman of the Year four times (1987, 1989-1991). Munoz also has four touchdown receptions in his career.
The Bengals selected Munoz with their first overall pick in 1980. Even though he had suffered three knee injuries in the four years during which he played at USC, the Bengals were confident in his ability to become an outstanding NFL player. To prove their suspicion, they sent Forest Gregg to Southern California to test him. In Munoz's own words:
He was putting me through a workout. So, I needed to show him that I was worthy for them to pick me. He put me through some drills and I moved along and all of sudden he decided to pass rush me. I wasn't sure how to react but I reacted like any offensive lineman would react. He made a move inside, made a move outside just as he made them, I stuck both hands right into his chest and jammed him to the ground. You better believe I was scared. I extended a hand, I apologized and he said, 'no problem' he smiled, he goes 'that's okay'.
Before his Hall Of Fame induction, Munoz was the first player ever selected to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls. He was an unanimous selection to team of the decade and was a member of the NFL 75th anniversary team. He was also the Walter Payton Man of the Year selection in 1991.
In 1998, Munoz was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame and became the first Bengals player to be enshrined. Munoz took the time in his speech to thank his family, his wife, and the orange-faced fans in attendance; all of the lineman he played with and even a high school baseball coach from his childhood. From his speech:
I'll never forget the 13 years at Riverfront Stadium and the jungle that was established right there on the river down in Cincinnati. I appreciate all the encouragement from the fans - week in and week out - and even now after being out of the league for five years, as Cincinnati is our home and we go about town and a lot of encouragement.
...In my second year in the NFL, I knew I wasn't motivated by the money, I knew I wasn't motivated by the notoriety. And I sat in my hotel room the night before the season opener and there had to be more to playing in the NFL. And I realized as I looked through the scripture, that there is more than playing in the NFL. That I was to present my body as a living sacrifice and that was my way to worship God. And you talk about intensity and competitiveness, that's exciting. You see, and as I met the gentleman that sculpted this bust, Blair Buswell, and I sat there with him for two days, and he brought in all - just the details. And I look at God, at how God has sculpted this person and brought the details in with all the people I've mentioned and has allowed me to be the person I am. And that's what I'm thankful for.
Munoz went on to start the Anthony Munoz Foundation, which benefits the youth in Cincinnati. He continues to be a popular figure in the area and his jersey is still very commonly seen at Bengals games.