Kevin Mawae will be in his Minneapolis hotel room Saturday afternoon, waiting for a phone call or a knock at the door. A knock means football immortality; a phone call means at least another year of hoping and dreaming.
This is the election-day drill for Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists.
"The worst part of the whole thing is sitting around the hotel, waiting," Mawae told ESPN on Thursday night.
Mawae, who endured the agony of the wait last year as a finalist, deserves a knock. He was the league's most dominant center during his playing career (1994-2009), a freakish athlete who revolutionized the position. There are only seven pure centers in Canton, and Mawae should be No. 8 if the selection committee does its job properly Saturday.
"Last year, it was unexpected, making the top 10. It was pretty special," said Mawae, who played most of his career with the New York Jets. "If I don't make it this year, sure, I'd be a little disappointed, but it's an honor and privilege just to be on the list. It means I'm among the best 400 guys to ever put on a uniform."
Mawae was one of the 15 finalists last year, and he made it to the final 10 (only five were selected). He was joined by Tony Boselli, Brian Dawkins, Ty Law and John Lynch in the top five who didn't make the Hall of Fame. In theory, that should bode well for Mawae's chances this time, but the landscape changes every year because of newcomers on the ballot.
Ray Lewis, in his first year of eligibility, is considered a lock for the Hall. Two other first-timers, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher, are regarded as very strong candidates. They could take up three of the five spots, making it tough for the returning finalists. The wild card is the polarizing Terrell Owens, who has a Hall of Fame résumé but not enough support among voters -- not last year, anyway.
The sense is that only one offensive lineman will get in, and the competition is fierce -- Mawae, Boselli, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson and Joe Jacoby. This is Jacoby's 20th and final year on the ballot for modern-era players, which could make him a sentimental favorite. If he doesn't make it, he'll go in the senior category, and it's harder to get in, because only one or two are selected each year. Just ask Joe Klecko.
All five offensive linemen were named all-decade in their respective era, so we're talking about the best of the best. What separates Mawae is that he was head and shoulders above the rest at his position. We're talking about eight Pro Bowls and a six-time All-Pro (first team). He blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons.
Try to wrap your brain around his stat: Mawae played in 92 games in which a running back reached the 100-yard mark, 26 more games than any center in the Hall of Fame.
"I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for him,” former Jets great Curtis Martin told the team's official website.
So now Mawae waits.
Per Hall of Fame instructions, he must be in his hotel room by 2:30 p.m. That way, he can be easily reached when the Class of 2018 is finalized. Last year, he made the mistake of not eating before repairing to his hotel room in Houston, and he didn't call room service because he didn't want to be duped by a non-Hall of Fame knock at the door.
This time, he's planning to eat beforehand. An invite from Canton would be a just dessert.