Donning his recently bestowed Pro Football Hall of Fame gold jacket, Kevin Mawae may have set a new mark for grandest entrance to a Camp Tontozona practice in Arizona State history on Tuesday.
Then, the ASU analyst and former seven-time first-team All-NFL center told the assembled Sun Devils that he was only able to earn the distinction by putting his the best interests of the team ahead of any selfish pursuits.
“It’s not about you,” Mawae told the entire team after being mobbed upon arrival, first by senior offensive linemen Cohl Cabral and Steven Miller and later by the rest of the offense and then their defensive teammates. “It’s not about you didn’t get the starting job, it’s not about you because you didn’t get enough reps, it’s not about you because you’re not playing the position you want to play. It’s never about you in this game. It’s always about the guy next to you, always about the guy behind you. Some of us got to be selfless and thankless.
“If for one second you ever think what we do is about you, you’re in the wrong sport. I learned that this week and not that I didn’t know it before but it sunk in with me this weekend. It’s about one another, it’s about the Sun Devils, it’s about the Maroon and Gold, it’s about a legacy. When you leave this team at the end of the year, some of you won’t be here. What did you leave behind?”
If the message didn’t resonate from Mawae, a player who spent five years (2001-05) being coached by ASU head coach Herm Edwards while with the New York Jets, it probably wouldn’t from anyone else, either.
“Our job (as a staff) is to bring greatness out in everybody,” Mawae said. “You might not be great enough to be a Hall of Famer, but you’re great enough to be a great student, you’re great enough to be a great brother, you’re great enough to be a great son, uncle, whatever it is. If we, together, can just pour out a little bit of that greatness between now and the end of November, then ASU greatness is going to be blowing out the Rose Bowl, you know what I’m saying?
“My challenge to you guys, between now and the end of the season, pour out a little bit of greatness, give us a little bit of it. And by the end of the season, let all that greatness, whatever it is inside you, let it be gone and depleted and let you guys know and all your teammates know, that I did this for you.”
Edwards hugged Mawae and told reporters how proud he was of the player he coached and is still mentoring as he pursues a coaching career.
“He had some good words for those guys, some words that were thoughtful but also about the game of football because we’re all keepers of this great game, whether you coach it or play it,” Edwards said. “The game is bigger than any player.
“Young guys need to hear that because we’re in a world today of social media and building your brand and that’s all good but the team is always the most powerful thing you have. He said that in his speech today to the players, which was good.”