At their annual Kickoff Luncheon held at Cipriani Wall Street, the Jets announced Kevin Mawae will be the 18th member inducted into the Ring of Honor.
"It's such a humbling experience," Mawae told the crowd after he took a moment to compose himself from his raw emotions. "I came here in 1998 as a New York Jet and Bill Parcells took a flier on a kid and made me the highest paid center in the league. People thought he was crazy for doing it. I promised him then that I'd make good on the promise of what he did for me.
"I didn't think that this many years later, I'd be honored in such a way. I know I've been on the finalist list for the Hall of Fame, but this is something special. This means that what I did here in New York was important to my teammates, the community and coaches that I played for."
The 6'4", 289-pounder was selected for six Pro Bowls during his eight years with the Green & White. He was also a five-time first-team All-Pro and made 118 starts that included seven postseason appearances.
"The New York Jets mean a lot to me," he said. "People asked me when I retired where do I associate myself with more and there's no doubt after eight years in New York. The highlight and apex of my career was spent here. I'm a New York Jet now and I always will be."
Monday, Mawae toured the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for the first time since it opened its doors in 2008, since the team was located on Long Island when he played. The Leesville, LA native today thanked head coach Todd Bowles and the staff for allowing him to be around the team and shared an anecdote about former Jets owner Leon Hess before he thanked the crowd one final time.
Mawae will join two former teammates, Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Curtis Martin and Ring of Honor WR Wayne Chrebet, in Green & White immortality on Oct. 1 at halftime of the Jets-Jaguars game.
"As a kid, my dream was playing in the NFL," he said. "As a player in the NFL, I used to go out in the stadium four or five hours before a game and just sit in the stands and just enjoy the moment — the smell of the grass when they cut the field, painting the field. I read all the names of the greats that ever played the game in every one of the stadiums. I can remember that guy when I played when I was 8 years old. I remember that guy.
"Never once did I want to be one of those guys. I just wanted to be a good football player. I stand before you today and you young players. I get to be one of those guys now. Thank you."