For the second consecutive year, Kevin Mawae is staring at the finish line. A Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist, Mawae will learn his fate Saturday when the 2018 Hall of Fame Class is introduced for the first time.
"If I don't make it, I'll still be happy I'm one of the 15," Mawae said Wednesday. "If you're one of the 15 — like I am now — you are one of the best 400 guys who ever put on an NFL football helmet."
The 15 modern-era finalists include cornerback Ty Law, who was a Jet in 2005 and '08, and Alan Faneca, the longtime Steelers guard, who worked in the trenches for the Green & White in 2008-09. But Mawae, who became the latest Jet to enter the Ring of Honor, has proclaimed he is a Jet now and always will be.
After starting his career with the Seahawks, Mawae signed with New York's AFC representative in 1998 and would earn six consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1999-2004. During his time at center in New York, he helped block for 44 100-yard games and seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons by Curtis Martin.
"I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn't for him," Martin has said of Mawae. "It would make my day to see him get there. Kevin was more like a fullback playing center, and the feet he had were unbelievable. He was just as quick as tight ends, the way he played. So we were able to have a much larger running package because of what he was able to do."
The first team all-decade center for the 2000s blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons. A durable force, he also started in 238 games of the 241 contests he played. With Seattle (1994-97), New York (1998-2005) and Tennessee (2006-09), Mawae blocked for a 100-yard rusher a staggering 92 times.
"There's a part of me in there already, with Curtis going in," Mawae said of the Hall last year after his first time as a finalist. "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."
The 2018 Class will be announced Saturday evening during NFL Honors, which will air at 9 p.m. on NBC. Mawae will find out earlier as the program will be taped at the University of Minnesota from 6-8 p.m. No more than five Modern-Era Finalists can be selected in a given year.
"They request you be in your hotel room by 2:30, three o'clock that afternoon. And you literally sit there until five o'clock in the evening until you get a phone call or knock," Mawae said. "You don't want to order room service because you don't want people knocking on your door. You don't want anybody to know what room you are in either because you don't want anyone calling your phone number. You literally sit there with your family, watch television for three hours and just hope things turn out for you."
Mawae will depart his Scottsdale, AZ home Thursday and be in Minneapolis for a Gold Jacket Reception and Gold Jacket luncheon for the finalists. The new Class will be celebrated at the Super Bowl and then Canton preparations will begin in earnest the following morning.
"If you do make it, then on Monday morning you begin your Hall of Fame orientation where they measure you for your bust, measure you for your coat and then kind of walk you through the process of putting together your Hall of Fame weekend," Mawae said. "Hopefully I'll be one of the guys hanging around on Monday, taking care of all of that."