The third time could be the charm for Kevin Mawae. The former Jets Pro Bowl center is back knocking at the door of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mawae for the third straight year is in prime position to gain entry into the Canton shrine as the Hall on Thursday night announced its 15 Modern Era finalists for membership in the Class of '19. In both 2015 and '16, Mawae was among the the 25 semifinalists vying for induction.
And as a finalist in both 2017 and last year, he made it to the final 10 before being voted out of the hunt to wear the coveted Gold Jacket honors and to have his bronze bust on display in the Hall of Fame Gallery.
Mawae remains a strong candidate. While he also spent time at the start of his 16-year career with Seattle and at the finish with Tennessee, he starred in the middle eight of his 16 pro seasons as the pivot man on the Jets' offensive line. He made six of his eight Pro Bowls as a member of the Green & White. And he was inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor during the 2017 season.
Mawae's Jets career was intertwined with that of Curtis Martin, the Jets' Hall of Fame running back who, behind the blocks thrown by No. 68 and his fellow linemen, ran for 100 yards in 44 games and 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons.
"The New York Jets mean a lot to me," said Mawae, who for the past year has worked as a quality control analyst for his old Jets coach, Herm Edwards, at Arizona State University. "People ask me when I retired, who did I associate myself with more. And there's no doubt after eight years in New York. The highlight and apex of my career were spent there. I'm a New York Jet now and I always will be."
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Among the many who've spoken of Mawae's qualifications over the years, one who knows first-hand is Edwards, who gave a scouting report of his former starting center from 2001-05:
“He was one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around. He knew the difference between being hurt and being injured. He was a guy who took pride in how he performed. He understood his performance was his résumé every time he walked on the field. He understood the preparation of being a great player. He was a talented player, but he was a tireless worker. He is the embodiment of a guy who is worthy of receiving this honor."
Mawae will have the company of some players who also spent some time with the Jets. He was teammates with third-time Finalist Ty Law, a 10-year Patriot who had 10 interceptions for the 2005 Jets, and second-time Finalist S Steve Atwater, who followed 10 Denver seasons with 1999 in the Jets secondary.
Also, G Alan Faneca, the longtime Steeler in his fourth year as a Finalist, helped solidify the Jets' 2008 and '09 O-lines, and first-time Finalist S Ed Reed, an 11-year Raven, played the second half of the 2013 season in the Green & White secondary.
The 15 Modern Era finalists that include Mawae, plus two Contributor candidates and one Senior candidate, comprise the 18 finalists who will be considered for entry to the Hall when the 48 members of the Selection Committee meet on Feb. 2, the day before Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Besides Mawae, the rest of this year's 15 Modern Era finalists are:
- S Steve Atwater
- CB Champ Bailey
- T Tony Boselli
- WR Isaac Bruce
- Coach Don Coryell
- G Alan Faneca
- Coach Tom Flores
- TE Tony Gonzalez
- G Steve Hutchinson
- RB Edgerrin James
- CB Ty Law
- S John Lynch
- S Ed Reed
- DE Richard Seymour
The Senior Finalist is S Johnny Robinson, and the two Contributor Finalists are former Cowboys vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.
The selectors will thoroughly discuss the careers of each finalist. Although there is no set number for any class of enshrinees, the Hall of Fame’s ground rules stipulate that from four to eight new members will be selected each year and that no more than five Modern-Era finalists can be elected in a given year. To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent during the annual selection meeting.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 will be announced during NFL Honors, an awards special to air nationally on the eve of the Super Bowl at 9 p.m. ET and PT on CBS. This year's honors show will be taped earlier that evening at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, where the Class of '19 will be introduced for the first time.
The Class of 2019 will be officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the spectacular Enshrinement Ceremony held inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton on Saturday, Aug. 3.