Who is the most important draft pick in Cincinnati Bengals history? Who is the one player that has done the most for the team on and off of the field? The Bengals history hasn’t produced much in the way of great players.
It has produced offensive lineman Anthony Munoz.
Munoz came to Cincinnati out of the University of Southern California as their number one pick in 1980. Though he was a talented athlete, the pick came as somewhat of a surprise. Munoz had been injured for most of the 1979 season, but this did not stop Bengals head coach Forrest Gregg from coveting him. Gregg was a hall of fame lineman himself and when Munoz floored Gregg in a blocking drill he became number one on their draft board.
Munoz was a starter from day one. By his second season, 1981, Munoz was considered one of the best offensive linemen in the game. He was light on his feet for a 275 pound offensive tackle. Munoz was ahead of his time and the future of pro football where today 300 pound players are common.
The 1981 season was an historic one for Munoz and the team. Along with quarterback Ken Anderson and a strong defense, Munoz helped lead Cincinnati to their first AFC title and a trip to the Super Bowl. Cincinnati lost to the San Francisco 49ers, but had finally gotten over the hump of chasing the Pittsburgh Steelers for years.
Throughout the decade, Munoz was the man all other offensive linemen were compared to. He was a perennial All-Po, made the all-decade team and was picked for the NFL’s 75th anniversary squad. Quarterbacks from Anderson to Boomer Esiason relied on him whenever they needed protection or a hole opened for the running game.
But Munoz may be the most important draft pick in Cincinnati Bengals history for what he has done off of the field. Like his teammate, linebacker Reggie Williams, Munoz became very involved in the Cincinnati community and its charities, one which is for the fight against leukemia. Munoz began a golf classic in his name that brings hall of fame players of all sports together. It is very similar to the one that hall of fame back Bobby Mitchell helped sponsor for years in Washington D.C.
When Munoz retired, the Bengals had been to two Super Bowls. They lost both to the 49ers, but Munoz did all he could to help them win. He was never one to look for attention. Munoz took on the best defensive linemen in the NFL and won. He was such a good athlete that the Bengals would send him out on pass routes from time to time. One of his most famous plays is a touchdown catch against the arch rival Cleveland Browns which sent a 1986 game into overtime.
Offensive linemen often do not get their due as they make up the most important unit on a football team. But Anthony Munoz was so good people had no choice but to acknowledge him. When the NFL Network did a list of the Top 100 players of all-time, Munoz finished at number 12 and was the top offensive lineman.
He is acknowledged here as the most important draft pick in Cincinnati Bengals history.