Offensive lineman ranks among the hardest positions to quantify in all of professional sports. But among NFL historians, one man often stands (literally) head and shoulders above the others: Cincinnati Bengals legend Anthony Munoz.
An 11-time Pro Bowler and nine-time First-Team All-Pro selection in 13 NFL seasons, Munoz became the cornerstone of the Bengals offensive line in the 1980s – at a time where elite pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Mark Gastineau were dominating. He kept star quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason on their feet, and made rushing holes that Pro Bowlers Pete Johnson and James Brooks smashed through for career years.
But Munoz also had a knack for scoring “Big Man Touchdowns.” The 280-pound tackle caught four touchdowns in his career, and has teamed with Hydroxycut to reward fans if another player does so this year.
We asked Munoz about his partnership with Hydroxycut, his beloved Bengals reaching the Super Bowl, what it takes to be an elite offensive lineman, and his thoughts on a few famous Bengals being snubbed from the Hall of Fame.
This interview with Weston McKennie is made possible by Hydroxycut.
TheSpun: You’ve teamed up with Hydroxycut to host a pre-game workout before the big game. What made you want to get involved with this project and what would you say to anyone interested in attending?
Anthony Munoz: A little bit came down to playing in LA, where I’m from, close to where I went to college. It’s just to motivate people to stay healthy. When they shared with me what was taking place here – the big game workout, encouraging people to (engage in) healthy living, to know what Hydroxycut is all about. Even after I retired I tried to stay focused on working out. They gave me the opportunity to workout with the people – I was in.
Then they talk about the things they’re doing – the Hydroxycut Big Game Sweepstakes where a lucky person has the chance to win $100,000 if an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman scores a touchdown. I perked up even a little more. We can encourage people to work out and we’re giving people the opportunity where if a big guy scores a touchdown, to win some money. And if not, maybe some food for a year, groceries for a year [valued at $10,000], maybe a free gym membership for a year [three 12-month gym memberships].
The whole package really excited me to be part of this Big Game workout, being together with the fans and to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle. To come out, get this New Year going, try to motivate them and say, “This old guy who played in the NFL, he can still do it.” That’s why I wanted to do it. And when they added the Big Game Sweepstakes I said, “Thank you Hydroxycut for including the big guys.”
Pumped to talk about “The Big Game” w/former All-Pro OL Logan Mankins for @Hydroxycut! They’re hosting a “Big Workout” on 2/12 in LA! More importantly they’re giving away $100k if an offensive or defensive lineman scores in the title game. Visit https://t.co/iDVj2aeQ98 for more! pic.twitter.com/74hW4rBzfC
— Callie Bundy (@CallieBundy) January 15, 2022
AM: That’s a great question… probably because lineman usually can’t touch the ball unless they’re the offensive center. Maybe it’s the lumbering, 300-pounder going downfield and people root for the underdog. People say, “Is he gonna get caught by the fast guy before he gets to the endzone or is he gonna get chased down?”
Maybe it’s all of that… maybe that all comes into play. And it happened 13 times during the regular season and twice in the playoffs. I know I enjoy it as a former offensive lineman and people I know enjoy it. When you’ve got a guy that runs a 4.30 (40-yard dash) and catches it, people are gonna be like “Look at that speed.” When you get a 6-foot-6, 320-pound guy like me it’s like “Okay, is he going to be able to make it?” Maybe that’s why.
TheSpun: Congrats to your Bengals for making their first Super Bowl since the one you played in. What do they need to do to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Cincinnati?
AM: We’ve been talking so much about the big guys – the O-linemen. To me, you can have a Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase. You still need the big guys up front offensively. You need the big guys on defense to stop them. I think for us to bring the Lombardi Trophy home, at least on the offensive line we’re going to have to play the game of our life. I think (offensive line coach) Frank Pollack understands that. He’s been around for a long time and I think these guys will be ready… It comes down to the offensive line to contain Aaron Donald, to not allow Von Miller to make an impact and keep that Rams offense off the field.
Love it. Who Dey!!!! https://t.co/yPltSzTd6t
— Anthony Muñoz (@AnthonyMunozHOF) January 30, 2022
TheSpun: What contributes to being a great offensive lineman in the NFL?
AM: I think there’s a variety of things. Size, strength, quickness, flexibility has a lot to do with it. Being flexible and able to move out in space. Being able to use your hands. But I think a big criteria people tend to overlook is the intelligence because we have so much in our playbook that we have to make adjustments to quickly. You don’t have to wait for your quarterback to change things. You should already know exactly what you have to do.
So you can talk about the physical aspects but the mental part is just as important. Size, strength, speed, flexibility. And you need that little bit of nastiness. You can’t be worried about making friends. If a defensive lineman doesn’t like you, tough. You can be friends in the offseason. If the defensive lineman doesn’t like you during the game, things are going your way.
TheSpun: On the topic of great offensive lineman, are there any teammates that you had in the NFL or at USC that you credit with your own NFL dominance?
AM: You look at the whole group. The guys I played with at USC: My senior year, four of the five linemen I played with (not to mention we had two Heisman Trophy running backs) were No. 1 picks in the NFL and played 10-15 years. When you’re surrounded by guys like that and the guys I was with in Cincinnati – Kenny Anderson and Boomer Esiason at quarterback, Ickey Woods and James Brooks. I got a lot of individual accolades, but I’ll be the first to say that if I didn’t play with a group of excellent players I talked about in college or in the pros, none of that happens. So all of the linemen I played with in my NFL career – those guys contribute to the 13 years that I had with the Bengals.
TheSpun: Let’s pretend for a second that you’re not Anthony Munoz. Who would you argue is the best offensive lineman of all time?
AM: That’s amazing because there’s a handful. Going back to Forrest Gregg, John Hannah, Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace. I know you asked for one but I just gave you five or six (laughs). Those are guys that I would, as a fan, think are the greatest.
TheSpun: Do you think you could objectively say you’re the best offensive lineman of all-time (as so many often do)?
AM: It’s humbling to hear that. I personally can’t say that. I’m thrilled to be mentioned with those guys. But the fact that so many people say that just blows me away because I only played one game in my senior year (at USC) and all the “experts” said I wouldn’t be able to play in the NFL… But if I was just a fan I don’t know if I would say that (I’m the greatest lineman ever). That’s a tough one.
TheSpun: Who was the hardest opposing player to go up against and did you ever get beaten badly by them?
AM: That’s easy. I’ve not met an offensive lineman who HASN’T gotten beaten, so I’m right there with them. Again, I have a list of guys that I can give you but probably the all around best… I played him about a half-dozen times – and yes, he did get a sack on me – was Bruce Smith. I’m just thankful that when they came out with his Hall of Fame video, his sack off me didn’t make that.
TheSpun: The Hall of Fame announcement is coming up soon and Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson is a finalist. If you were in that room, what would you say to vote him in?
AM: The career he had. The success he had against top defensive linemen. Deserving. All you have to do is look at the guys he played against. You could probably get a better testimonial from those guys, but I had a chance to watch him. You better believe that any Bengal on the ballot, I’m gonna root for. I know I’m not the only Bengal Hall of Famer that’s played in the history of this franchise. It’s getting to the point where it’s getting a little frustrating. So for Willy to get in, such an amazing tackle during his career, I’d have to say he deserves to get in.
"I love their chances."
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 26, 2022
TheSpun: Speaking of famous Bengals named Anderson: How about Ken Anderson? Would you like to make the case for him making the Hall of Fame?
AM: Easy. And there’s two kids: 13 and 14 – Ken Riley and Kenny Anderson. You take (Anderson’s) stats and line them up and compare them to guys who came one and two in a lot of categories over 16 years, four passing titles, MVP, Super Bowl – that’s getting to the point where it’s getting a little frustrating.
Ken Riley – you have the top eight interceptors of all-time – and he’s No. 5 – and he’s the only one not in the Hall of Fame. Played 15-16 years.
Either one of those guys I could make a case for, and I have. And I continue to be an advocate for those two guys and they should be in the Hall of Fame. I have yet to get an answer why (they’re not in Canton). It’s funny because whenever a Hall of Fame elector calls and asks my thoughts on a player I always bring up “Why isn’t Kenny Anderson in the Hall of Fame?” It’s a mystery.
TheSpun: Lastly, you played in the infamous Freezer Bowl against the Chargers in 1981. Looking back on the experience, which I can only assume was miserable aside from getting the W, do you think the NFL should reschedule games when temperatures drop that low?
AM: It was crazy cold. Painfully cold. I guess if the schedule allows it (you should change it), but you would have had to play the game maybe a day or two late. (In the future) you hope that the game doesn’t get THAT cold. 10-15 below zero is a heat wave compared to 59 below (in that game).
To this day Anthony Munoz remains one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ biggest fans – in more ways than one. Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium will see his favorite team play close to where he was born. It will be quite the homecoming for the greatest player in Bengals history.
But Munoz has pledged to have his eyes on the big guys. And if any of the bigger players for either the Bengals or the Los Angeles Rams score a touchdown, Hydroxycut will give one entrant to their contest $100,000. Even if we don’t get a “Thicc Six,” Hydroxycut will still be giving away free groceries for a year (valued at $10,000) and three 12-month gym memberships (valued at $1,200 each).
Anthony Munoz has a lot to be excited about with his Bengals, not just on Super Bowl Sunday, but for many years to come.