NASHVILLE - There are 10 centers in the NFL Hall of Fame.
John Russell/The Associated Press
Kevin Mawae, who played with the Tennessee Titans last season, on Friday announced his retirement from the NFL after 16 seasons and eight Pro Bowls.
We know there will be at least 11.
When former LSU star Kevin Mawae announced his retirement this week from the NFL, after not receiving a contract offer commensurate with his stature, the clock started ticking on his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. And unlike in other years, there shouldn't be all that much debate when Mawae's name comes up.
Sixteen seasons and eight Pro Bowl selections are about as good a resume as a center could hope for. Add in the 211 starts - third-most in league history at center - and 241 regular-season games played, which were the most among active linemen when Mawae played his last game, and a streak of 177 consecutive games played, and what you have is a guy who did everything as a pro except win the Super Bowl.
And that smudge absolutely doesn't disqualify him from being a winner.
Mawae played last season for the Titans, who chose to go younger at the position, and that certainly was Tennessee's right. The NFL, for the most part, is a young man's game, same as is the case in almost any professional sport and, particularly, in one as bruising as the NFL.
But last season he anchored a line that led the way to Chris Johnson running for 2,006 yards. Obviously, he wasn't done and I'm guessing the most hurtful part of the process was having NFL teams essentially tell him he was done when, in fact, he knows otherwise.
But he seemed at peace with the decision. He's a strength and conditioning intern at Vanderbilt, which his alma mater, LSU, played Saturday night. He said he has grown comfortable with home life, and now doesn't want to be away from his two kids.
He's still president of the NFL Players Association and he has been one of the union's best player representatives since he assumed the role. So it's not like he'll have much time to be bored, what with helping Vandy improve and being part of a union that's in negotiations to, hopefully, avoid an NFL lockout in 2011.
And even though he didn't necessarily get to go out on his own terms - as a Super Bowl winner - there sure isn't much for him to be displeased with in his career.
In five years, Mawae could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. True, no full-time center ever has gone in on the first ballot, not even Steelers great Mike Webster. The best of them have been overlooked at least a year or two before the selection committee gets around to them.
But Mawae will get in. His play, and resume, make that clear.
Former LSU center Kevin Mawae won't have his path blocked to NFL Hall of Fame | NOLA.com