A perfect guest today for Eric Allen on the second day of our "Live at the Combine" radio show from Indianapolis was Kevin Mawae, who weaved together observations on his being a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist earlier this month with his recollections of his Indy Combine experience way back in the previous millennium, 1994 to be exact.
"Interesting ... nerve-wracking at times ... grateful for the opportunity," the Pro Bowl center told EA about his HOF experience that left him just shy of being selected for the Class of '17. "Very few people get to go through this process. Being in the Hall is a hallowed experience. I'm not there yet, but Curtis Martin and those guys would know."
Martin, of course, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 after his 11 superb NFL seasons, the last eight as the Jets' record-setting, even league-leading tailback.
"There's a part of me in there already, with Curtis going in," Mawae said of the bust room at the Canton shrine. "Ten thousand of his 13- or 14,000 yards are mine. So there's a special part of us that are already in there, the guys that blocked for him over the course of our careers, Jason Fabini, Brandon Moore, Dave Szott — there's so many guys that are a part of that.
"And likewise, if I get in, whether I'm next to Curtis or across the hall from him, I don't care. I'm in. That's all that matters. But I would go in knowing all those guys that helped Curtis get in are the same guys that would be a part of me getting in as well."
EA segued to the business at hand at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center this week. Mawae recalled that his experience in '94, almost on the same spot since his workouts were in the old RCA Dome, had its similarities and differences to today's event.
"The meat market of going through in your underwear to weigh in and take your measurements are still the same ... following the blue tape, the yellow tape, the green tape on the floor, that's all the same," he said. "The difference is the media and what they've turned this into. This is the second largest NFL experience in a given year, next to the Super Bowl, from what I understand. We've got Radio Row at the Combine — that's crazy! For the first time, fans are going to watch the bench press and the 40-yard dash."
Mawae had good recall of his Combine metrics: 21 reps in the bench, "not a ton, but at the time anything over 20 was good"; a 5.12-second 40 that would've been faster except that he wasn't familiar with the string he was supposed to run through and so decelerated 3 yards shy of the finish; a 29-inch vertical; a 4.74 in the 20 shuttle.
Kevin chuckled at a few other memories of that time more than two decades earlier. He remembered finally correcting the Combine announcer who kept mispronouncing his name "MAY-way" right before his vertical: "It's bleeping Mah-WHY!"
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And one question from his interview with Kansas City has stuck with him: "If the Chiefs don't draft you, what are you going to do?" "If the Chiefs don't draft me, somebody else is. I'm not worried about it," Mawae responded at the time. "That was the dumbest question, I thought, because it was kind of presumptuous to think that was the only team that was going to draft me."
The Seahawks did draft Mawae in the second round of the '94 draft, 36th overall. And he said he found out years later that one other club was thinking about taking him late in Round 1.
"But I got flunked on my physical at the Combine by that team," he said, "which happens to be a divisional rival of the Jets."
And that team rhymes with ... ?
"Hills," he said with his easy laugh.
Sixteen years later, Mawae had played in 241 games, the most in his entire Combine class. And perhaps as soon as '18, he'll finish climbing the hills and enter the doors of pro football's pantheon.