Legendary Jets center Kevin Mawae believes this might be the year he earns election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I'd be lying if I say it wouldn't bother me if I don't get in," Mawae, who is a finalist for the second straight year, told ESPN's Rich Cimini. "This year, it might hurt more because people are saying this is my time. We'll see. I'm hopeful."
And he's not alone. Former teammate and current Hall of Famer Curtis Martin advocated for Mawae's induction, telling Cimini, "I don't know if I would've made it to the Hall of Fame without Kevin.
"There are some things you never see if you're not literally running behind Kevin," he continued. "But from running behind him, I still have yet to see another lineman who was as agile and still as strong and formidable as he was. The only other center I would compare him to is Dermontti Dawson. To me, those two were in a league of their own, and I would probably still choose Kevin over Dermontti."
A seven-time first-team All Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler and member of the Jets' Ring of Honor, Mawae is a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the third time. He was one of 15 year finalists last year but fell short in a class that featured Randy Moss, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, among others.
This year's list of modern-era finalists also includes Ed Reed, Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey and Alan Faneca. But Martin and former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington both believe Mawae has earned his place in Canton.
"He was the next center who had great mobility and was able to block players in space and, really, helped change our game from a game that was played in a phone booth to a game that was played in space," Pennington said. "He understood angles so well, and he was one of the first centers who could handle the smaller, faster 'Mike' linebackers. From a playing perspective, he really helped revolutionize his position."
The Hall of Fame selection committee will meet Saturday in Atlanta to select the class. And Mawae, while optimistic he'll earn enshrinement, is keeping things in perspective.
"My perspective is this: I'm one of 15 finalists," Mawae said. "If you add that to the 300-something already in the Hall of Fame, I'm still in the conversation when you're talking about the best 400 guys, or close to it, to ever play football. That's pretty cool."