I got the chance to catch-up with former Titans, recently retired, center (16 seasons) Kevin Mawae. He is also the President of the NFL Players Association.
Mawae played for the Titans from 2006-2009. In his first season in Tennessee, he blocked for running back Travis Henry who ran for over 1,200 yards and snapped the ball to the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Vince Young. In 2007, he helped LenDale White notch his first career 1,000 yard rushing season. 2008, he helped the Titans win their first 10 games of the season and finish up 13-3 (AFC No.1 seed). Last season had Mawae blocking for the league's sixth all-time 2,000 yard rusher and Offensive Player of the Year, Chris Johnson.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times in his career, including six in a row from 1999-'04. Mawae had been known over his career to show up in player's polls as one of the leagues "dirtiest players", including the one conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2009.
He played his college ball at LSU and was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007; now Mawae helps out the Vanderbilt football program as an unpaid intern.
TitanInsider: Are you enjoying being around the college game over at Vanderbilt University?
Kevin Mawae: It's fun, it gives me a better appreciation how to prepare and get the game plan ready for the players when they come in for the first day of the week. It's neat to be around the young players and share my wisdom and knowledge of the game to them, especially to the ones who really want to learn. Watching them play and prepare is fun but it's not so fun when you're not winning. They have some good kids over there and it's all about having some impact on them.
TitanInsider: I have to ask you one LSU question. Has Les Miles used up all his lives yet?
Kevin Mawae: (Laughing) If I was a gambling man and was going to go to Las Vegas, I would make sure Les Miles was rolling the dice for me. (More Laughing) You know what, though, at the end of the day he's undefeated (before the Auburn loss Saturday), and that's all that really matters. You can say what you want about him but he's willing to make calls that most coaches in the country would never even dream of doing. Fortunately for him and LSU they've worked. The only thing that really matters is the record, and right now they're undefeated.
TitanInsider: Have you found yourself missing the game on Sunday's?
Kevin Mawae: To be quite honest with you, I've only watched just a few games since the season started because I've been busy over at Vanderbilt. The games I have watched and the little I have seen, I miss the competition part and the cameraderie in the locker room with the guys; but I don't miss the soreness and the pain and the grind on Monday morning trying to get back ready for the game the following week. So, I don't miss that part of the game.
TitanInsider: How much time are you able to spend working on NFLPA matters?
Kevin Mawae: I'm constantly in contact with what's going on with the Players Association. I've been to the last few bargaining sessions we've had; my time is with Vanderbilt but it's with the understanding that I have commitments to the NFLPA and other speaking engagements that take up my time too. If I need to go somewhere because of my commitment to the players in the NFL, then I go. I've been completely involved in the NFLPA.
TitanInsider: There has been a lot of talk that the players union could possibly decertify, what are your thoughts on that subject?
Kevin Mawae: I think there is a big misconception and misunderstanding about the union decertifying; it's a step we can take and a pre-emptive step that has worked in the past in a federal case where a decertify sets a precedent for the future. We don't want to do that; we would like to get a deal done, but it is just to have a card up your sleeve in the event we get to the point we can't get a deal done. The last thing we want is for our players to be without a job. If the act of decertifying prevents that from happening and keeps our guys drawing a pay check, then we're better for it. All these votes are taking place, and so far it has been 100 percent unanimous to give the union the ability to decertify if in the event we think we need to do that.
TitanInsider: With a lockout looming, do you see light at the end of the tunnel?
Kevin Mawae: It really doesn't matter what I see; what we hope for is there isn't a lockout but we prepare our guys for the worst case scenario. That's what we're doing, we are preparing the guys for a lockout and we're preparing them to be 100 percent ready for a lockout. But at the end of the day we are hoping we can get a deal done.
TitanInsider: What is your take on all the helmet-to-helmet hits and the new fines that are being levied by the commissioner?
Kevin Mawae: Of all the hits I've seen, there was only one helmet-to-helmet hit that was outside the rules of the game. The rest of it was just vicious hits during a game that I think everyone is overreacting to; and I have an issue with the commissioner in the NFL wanting to fine guys for playing the game within the rules of the game. I think we should protect our guys. Protect the guys who make the hits, and protect the guys who get hit. But I have a serious issue with the NFL, and NFL management, who want to take money out of our players pockets when they've done nothing wrong but just make a pretty good hit on someone else. The only thing differnt now is that players are bigger, stronger, and they are faster. The game has changed in that way, but there aren't any bigger hits going on now than when I came in the league 16 years ago. Now you just have overexposure by the media; instead of seeing hits one time, you see it a million times over the Internet and on television, and it never dies.
TitanInsider: You blocked for Chris Johnson last year on his way to a 2,000 yard rushing season, what's realistic for him this year?
Kevin Mawae: I don't know, 2,000 yards in any year is quite a feat but to try to duplicate that in the following season is even harder. I know early on he hasn't had the big games yet where he runs for 200 yards, but I'm of the understanding he's on the same pace as last year. A lot of it is driven by the offensive line and the team's record, and as long as they are winning games, they're going to keep running the ball. If that happens then he definitely has a chance.
TitanInsider: Cortland Finnegan told Titaninsider early in the year it would be an honor for him to be considered one of the NFL's "dirtiest players." You've had that tag before, did you relish it or despise it?
Kevin Mawae: It didn't bother me one bit. Not one time in my career did I ever get fined for intentionally hurting another player. Now, I did get fined a handful of times for leg-whipping or something like that. I always said for players who want to call you "dirty," what that really means is that they weren't willing to work as hard as you and weren't willing to play the game as hard as you do. If you go back and watch all 241 games I played in, not one time did I ever go out there and try to hurt anyone intentionally. But to say you want to be on the list; all that means is that now guys are going to be out there looking for him and worried about Cortland hitting them or covering them. Cortland, from my time playing with him, that kid isn't dirty, he plays hard and people don't like when he plays hard against them.
TitanInsider: In five years when you're eligible for the Hall of Fame, is that something you will think about?
Kevin Mawae: I have enough respect for the game and the guys who are already there to know, that is something you just don't talk about. I'm going to leave that at that (laughing), but it would be quite the honor to get elected if that was to happen some day. It's not something I'm going to talk about or think about; I'm sure I'll have enough going on in the next five years.