Bengals great Munoz: ‘Humbling’ to be included in first class of team’s new Ring of Honor

Cincinnati Bengals Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz, right, was honored along with the 1982 Freezer Bowl team before the NFL playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO Cincinnati
Cincinnati Bengals Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz, right, was honored along with the 1982 Freezer Bowl team before the NFL playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO Cincinnati

Credit: KAREEM ELGAZZAR

Credit: KAREEM ELGAZZAR

Hall of Famer will be joined by the late Paul Brown

Anthony Munoz thought he was showing up at Paul Brown Stadium just to discuss with the Cincinnati Bengals his foundation’s 20th anniversary. When the Hall of Fame left tackle arrived in the board room, the entire Brown family was waiting to tell him he was going to be inducted into the first class of the team’s new Ring of Honor.

The Bengals made that public Thursday, announcing the organization was starting a Ring of Honor as a way to recognize past players, coaches and individuals who have played a significant role in the franchise’s history and tradition.

Munoz joins the late Paul Brown as the first two members, to be joined by another two individuals decided through a vote by season ticket members and suite owners. That ballot of seven candidates will be revealed in May.

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“It’s an honor to be here for this this day,” Munoz said in a Zoom news conference with local media. “It’s an exciting day, at the same time, very humbling to be part of this Ring of Honor, the inaugural inductees. It is exciting. … My heart is still grateful that when there was a time in 1980 when a lot of clubs weren’t going to take a chance, to give me a chance to play in the NFL, that Paul Brown and the Brown family took a shot on me, even though I had a history of injuries. And so, I’ll always be thankful for that and the fact that this day’s taken place, and I get a chance to enter the Ring of Honor with Paul Brown.”

Brown, who founded the Bengals and served as the team’s first head coach and general manager, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. Munoz, considered one of the greatest left tackles in the game, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 in his first year of eligibility. He was an 11-time Pro Bowler and received the NFL Man of the Year Award in 1991.

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Paul Brown photographed in 1972. Brown founded the Cleveland Browns and then went on to found the Cincinnati Bengals. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Paul Brown photographed in 1972. Brown founded the Cleveland Browns and then went on to found the Cincinnati Bengals. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Munoz said he puts the Ring of Honor recognition right up there with his Hall of Fame induction because this one puts him alongside his former teammates and potentially coaches. He is the lone Bengal in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he said he has been advocating for former quarterback Ken Anderson to be selected as well.

Past players – as well as fans – have been asking for a Ring of Honor to be created over the years, saying the Hall of Fame won’t recognize Bengals players until the organization itself does.

Bengals director of strategy and engagement Elizabeth Blackburn, the granddaughter of owner Mike Brown, said a Ring of Honor was talked about in the past, but it was believed the traditional display of names inside the bowl of the stadium “didn’t do justice” to the “greatness of the players.” Blackburn, who joined the staff last February, helped clear that roadblock by adding a digital component to the Ring of Honor to be displayed online and on the team’s social media channels.

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“The Bengals do have a great history of honoring our former players in different ways, like banners, and the 50th anniversary,” Blackburn said. “When I came in, I knew how much our fans want wanted a Ring of Honor.... In our the club’s shift and investment in building out our content organization, we now have an ability that we never had to do a Ring of Honor in what we think is an innovative way that will display the names in the bowl, but we’re pairing that with an archive of video and photos and stories, written content to truly tell the full story of the individuals both inducted into the Ring of Honor, and the individuals who will be on a ballot.

“…It’s this perfect time coming out of 2020, knowing that fan engagement and bringing communities together is more important than ever. And the club’s added capabilities in the content space makes us feel really great about doing a Ring of Honor doing Ring of Honor this year and how we’re going to roll it out.”

Munoz is hoping the Ring of Honor “will open the eyes of the (Hall of Fame) selectors” to the fact the Bengals organization “has had some great players over the years.”

The Ring of Honor will be displayed on the East facade inside Paul Brown Stadium, and the first four members will be inducted into the inaugural class with a halftime ceremony during a Bengals home game this season. It will be a recurring tradition to add to the Ring, which is why the team decided to roll it out with just four initial members.

Munoz, as a season ticket holder, also will get to help vote in the next inductees, though he said it would be a difficult decision.

Season ticket members and suite owners will each get one vote per account, multiplied by the number of years the account has been active. So, an original season ticket holder will have his or her vote counted 54 times.

“We’re just exploring new ways to tap into the engagement that our fans want,” Blackburn said. “You feel it, you see it. There’s this pent-up demand for engagement. And it’s amazing, because now more than ever, with content, with social media, our app, digital channels, on top of games, we have many tools in our toolbox to engage with them. I personally feel the desire from the fans, I want to tap into that and give the fan the engagement that they want. "

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