Kevin Mawae is a former 16 year pro in the NFL. He was drafted in the second round, 36th overall, in the 1994 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks and went on to become one of the most dominant centers of his generation for the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in eight different seasons, was a seven-time All-Pro and was chosen to be on the 2000s All Decade Team. He also served two terms as NFLPA President. And now one of the most feared and respected offensive lineman of his time, in college and the NFL, opens up in his Y1 on 1:
You were an All-State football player in high school and went on to dominate as a four year starter at LSU and are now a member of the LSU Hall of Fame. What advice do you have for kids today in terms of balancing their education with sports?
The one thing I will say is the same thing my parents ALWAYS told me: "If you don't keep your grades up, you won't play football (sports).” Poor academics was not an option for me nor was I allowed to settle for a lesser grade because of athletic demands. As you progress through your athletic years, especially high school and college, you understand that the only way to remain on the field is to stay strong in the classroom. The effort with which you pursue your athletic achievements should be no less than that in your academics.
You were drafted 36th overall by the Seattle Seahawks and went on to have a phenomenal career after leaving Seattle for the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. What have you learned from sports that have helped you most in life that you can share with our youth athlete readers and their families?
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Sports/Athletics teaches many lessons that carry over into many areas of life and the work place. Teamwork, how to work alongside others, accountability and being responsible to yourself and others. Commitment, finishing through with something you've started. Excellence, if it's worth doing, it's worth giving your best effort. Resiliency, things are going to get hard, you learn to fight through the tough things. These are just a few examples of what sports has taught me.
Do you have one or two mentors that stick out that guided you along your sports journey?
My parents were always the biggest influence in my life. I've had many coaches throughout the years, none of which I'd call "mentors" but all of which played a role in shaping me into who I am today. My first football coach, Fred Moses, taught me how to love the game of football. Coach Kenny Ferro who saw a future NFL player in me before anyone else ever did. Bill Parcells who taught me the importance of the details and Herm Edwards showing me that I can be a man of faith and have fun in the violent game I played. Howard Mudd, taught me the importance of having a strong foundation.
I know there are many, but what are some of the greatest moments in your sports career?
- February 8, 1989, I signed my national letter of intent to play for LSU
- November 1993, LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa ending their 30 game winning streak
- The day I was drafted in 1994 to the Seattle Seahawks
- The day I signed with the NY Jets in 1998 making me the highest paid center in the history of the NFL at the time
- 1998 AFC Championship game vs Denver where we lost to John Elway after leading the game 10-0 mid way into the 4th quarter
- Monday Night Miracle game, Jets vs Miami, coming from 30 points down to win the game in OT
- 2009 Titans vs Cardinals 99 yard drive walk-off TD to win the game
- Last game of my career vs Seattle in Seattle where I started my career. Chris Johnson goes over 2000yds rushing that game
Would you advise youth athletes to play multiple sports or specialize and focus on only one?
The idea of sports specialization at the youth level is ridiculous. Kids are still developing in many ways athletically, physically, mentally and in maturity. I don't think you have to "specialize" until you get at the high school level but allow your passion to lead the way and NOT the promise of a scholarship.
What specific advice do you have for youth athletes? What pitfalls should they look out for and be aware of?
Have a passion for what you are doing, always strive to get better and don't compare yourself to a teammate or another athlete. Be you and be the best you that you can be! Nothing beats hard work and commitment.
Is there anything on your journey through playing football at such an elite level that you would have changed or done differently?
I wouldn't change anything. The journey one takes and the successes and failures that you encounter on the way are what develop you into who you are today.
You've played alongside some of the greatest athletes in the game and been coached by some of the best. Are there a few that stand out as most memorable to play with as teammates or be coached by, whether it be college or pro?
As for coaches, see question 3. On top of those, Bill Muir, Doug Marrone and Mike Munchak, my other three offensive line coaches along with Howard Mudd, each helped develop me into the player I became. As for teammates, my two all-time favorites were Vinny Testeverde, a true professional, and Wayne Chrebet, underdog champion who gave everything and played the game like he was having fun! My college QB, Chad Loup (Dr. Loup), who despite all the negative things we went thru at LSU, always handled himself with class.
Outside of sports what are some of your other interests?
I enjoy fishing...well, catching fish. I love LSU football Saturday nights. But more than anything being with my family.
I know you have done some pretty incredible work on the philanthropy side. Tell us a bit about the charities/foundations you work with.
I'm not as heavily involved in charitable work now as I had been in the past. We still support a few worthy causes like Children’s Cup International Relief on a continual basis which exists to help "throw away kids become world changers" and is an organization we are commited to helping.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMawae