Anthony Muñoz came with a buyer beware tag during the 1980 NFL Draft, but the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t care.
Ultimately, Muñoz became the greatest offensive lineman draft pick in franchise history and, by some accounts, the greatest in NFL history.
Overcoming injury history
Muñoz had been limited to 16 games during his final two college seasons at Southern California, which gave pause to NFL critics. The Bengals never flinched and made him the third overall pick.
He became a fixture at left tackle for Cincinnati, starting 182 of the 185 games he played from 1980-1992. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times, was named First-Team All-Pro nine times, and was named Second-Team All-Pro two times.
He was the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1991 and was named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team. He was the Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1981 and 1988. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998, becoming the first player in Bengals’ history to be enshrined. He played with the Bengals in two Super Bowls.
Muñoz credited the longevity of his career to his strict workout regime. He installed a weight room in his home and often ran three miles each day.
At 6 feet, 6 inches, and 280 pounds, Muñoz was a great athlete. He even scored touchdowns on four of his seven career receptions. One of those touchdowns came in the final seven seconds of regulation with the Bengals trailing the Cleveland Browns, 17-10.
He had a unique wide stance in which his left leg started behind the rest of his body. He was athletic enough that he could recover for anybody coming on the inside. He rarely gave defensive ends anywhere to go. Muñoz often devastated defensive linemen by putting them on the ground.
His technique was especially impressive, considering he played in head coach Sam Wyche’s up-tempo offense that rarely allowed for regular rest between plays.
Muñoz retired following the 1992 season but attempted a comeback in 1993. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the preseason but suffered a shoulder injury that ended his career for good.
When he began playing football with his brothers and friends at a young age, he was drawn to the quarterback position because of his strong arm. When he was a high school freshman he tried to play quarterback, but a coach told him that he was going to be a lineman because he was so big.
It didn’t take Muñoz long to embrace the change. By the second day, he fell in love with the position because he was allowed to throw other kids around without getting into trouble.
He was more of a baseball player growing up. Though football had replaced baseball as his top sport in college, Muñoz still had significant success in baseball. He was a pitcher for the Southern California baseball team that won the NCAA title in 1978.
With his life firmly entrenched in southwest Ohio, Muñoz started the Anthony Muñoz Foundation in 2002 to impact the lives of kids in the Greater Cincinnati area. The foundation has impacted more than 40,000 kids through scholarships, character camps, and leadership seminars.
One of the programs is for boys of Hispanic heritage, something Muñoz has embraced throughout his life. A Mexican-American born in California, Muñoz received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence in 2015 for his contributions to the Hispanic community.
Muñoz also had a park in his hometown of Ontario, Calif., named after him following his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Muñoz’s children have been accomplished athletes, too. His daughter, Michelle, played basketball at the University of Tennessee and Ohio State. She was a two-time Ms. Basketball in Ohio. His son, Michael, was an All-American offensive lineman for Tennessee.