Anderson hopeful Bengals’ Ring of Honor selection could lead to Pro Football Hall of fame nod

Former Cincinnati Bengal offensive lineman Willie Anderson stands on the field to cheer on the Cincinnati Bengals during the Super Bowl LVI Opening Night Fan Rally presented by Gatorade Monday, Feb. 7, 2022 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Former Cincinnati Bengal offensive lineman Willie Anderson stands on the field to cheer on the Cincinnati Bengals during the Super Bowl LVI Opening Night Fan Rally presented by Gatorade Monday, Feb. 7, 2022 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Lineman, former wide receiver Isaac Curtis voted in by Cincinnati fans

Willie Anderson said he never thought, as a right tackle, he would get the recognition Cincinnati Bengals fans have given him over the years or that it would spread on a national level.

The past two years he has been on the doorstep of a Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. While he came up short as a finalist this year, the Bengals are honoring him as the best right tackle of his era.

Bengals season ticket members voted Anderson and former wide receiver Isaac Curtis into the organization’s second Ring of Honor class, the team announced Wednesday. They join as the fifth and sixth members, following quarterback Ken Anderson, team founder/head coach Paul Brown, offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz and cornerback Ken Riley, who were inducted into the inaugural class last year.

Anderson and Curtis will be recognized during a halftime ceremony at the Bengals’ Sept. 29 game against the Miami Dolphins. Anderson is hoping by his own organization now lifting him on a pedestal, it will help grab the attention of Hall of Fame voters.

“I would love to hope so,” Anderson said in a Zoom press conference Wednesday when asked if he thinks the Ring of Honor could help get him to Canton. “I never thought people would evaluate my career because there wasn’t a lot of limelight to it. My fourth through sixth year, I gave up no sacks. You just never know who they’re going to pick and choose. PFF and sites like that started to highlight guys like me. You hope guys pay attention to it, but you never know. I hope and pray they do.”

Both Anderson and Curtis expressed appreciation for the fans that voted them in and to the organization making the effort to acknowledge past players.

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Bengals tight end M.L. Harris celebrates a first-quarter touchdown with teammate Isaac Curtis during the AFC championship game, Jan. 10, 1982. Harris' only catch of the game put Cincinnati ahead 10-0. Photo courtesy of DDN Collection at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

Bengals tight end M.L. Harris celebrates a first-quarter touchdown with teammate Isaac Curtis during the AFC championship game, Jan. 10, 1982. Harris' only catch of the game put Cincinnati ahead 10-0. Photo courtesy of DDN Collection at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

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Bengals tight end M.L. Harris celebrates a first-quarter touchdown with teammate Isaac Curtis during the AFC championship game, Jan. 10, 1982. Harris' only catch of the game put Cincinnati ahead 10-0. Photo courtesy of DDN Collection at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

Director of strategy and engagement Elizabeth Blackburn said she was thrilled to see Anderson and Curtis voted in with “great participation” in the process. Blackburn was instrumental in convincing her grandfather, Bengals president and owner Mike Brown, to start the Ring of Honor last year.

“Willie and Isaac are beloved players by our organization and by my family, but they are going into the Ring of Honor as selected by fan votes,” Blackburn said. “… Our season ticket members continue to have a great eye and memory for our greatest and most talented players who are also first-class people. This year’s Ring of Honor class is yet again a demonstration of two people who have demonstrated excellence on all levels.”

Anderson, who played in 181 games for the Bengals from 1996 to 2007, is tied for eighth on the team’s all-time list for most appearances. He notably blocked for Corey Dillon’s two NFL-record setting games and also helped set the club record for fewest sacks allowed twice, at 21 in 2005, and later again at 17 in 2007.

The four-time Pro Bowler came into the league at a time when it was “all about the running backs,” but his greatest contribution, he felt, was being adaptable as the game evolved into more of a passing league.

“When you play for the Bengals, you know the standard was set by guys like Anthony Munoz,” Anderson said. “He is a hard one to follow, but people know how hard a tackle is going to play for the Cincinnati Bengals because of Anthony Munoz. … I would love to say I set the standard for a right tackle. People get so enamored with the blindside, but if a quarterback turns his head the right way, any side can be his blindside.”

Blackburn called Curtis “the granddaddy of the legacy of the number 85″ in the Bengals organization. Others who wore that number included Tim McGee, Chad Johnson, Tyler Eifert and Tee Higgins. Anderson said he was a trendsetter, someone who “did things in Bengals history that are folklore at this point.”

Curtis, also a track star in college, played for the Bengals from 1973 to 1984 and still holds the team record for average yards per reception (17.07). The four-time Pro Bowler ranks third in team history in both career receiving yards (7101) and 100-yard games (20), as well as fourth in receiving touchdowns (53).

The speedy receiver said he was especially honored to be going into the Ring after Ken Anderson and Riley -- two guys he played with -- were recognized last year.

“They really helped me coming into the league,” Curtis said. “I was pretty green as a wide receiver, only playing receiver my last year in college. We just clicked. … Certainly it’s a wide-open game now. It would be fun to play in the league now. Catching 40-50 passes was a lot back then, and now they are catching twice that many. We weren’t even targeted that many times. It would be fun to see what my stats would be in today’s game.”

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