Michael's and Michelle's achievements represent greatness begetting greatness. "If I had been as good at my position as Anthony Mu�oz was at his, I would have been 10 times better than Joe Montana," former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason once said. At USC, where Mu�oz also pitched for the baseball team that won the 1978 College World Series, his football career was marred by three knee injuries, the last a ligament tear in the left knee in the first game of his senior year. He underwent surgery but insisted on playing in the 1980 Rose Bowl four months later. "He was sure to be a high first-round draft pick but he wanted to play anyway," says John Robinson, USC's coach at the time.
The Trojans, ranked No. 3 in the nation, trailed No. 1 Ohio State 16-10 with 5:21 to play. USC offensive coordinator Paul Hackett was contemplating his crunch-time attack when, according to offensive line coach Hudson Houck, now an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys, Robinson told him, "Give the ball to [Heisman Trophy-winning tailback] Charles White and run it behind Mu�oz. That's how we'll win the damn game." USC did just that, driving 83 yards in eight plays, all on the ground, to win 17-16 and finish No. 2 in the country.
Bengals founder Paul Brown and his son, Mike, now the team's president, watched that Rose Bowl on television and laughed about Mu�oz's dominance. They decided on the spot that if the 6'6", 285-pound lineman was available, they'd take him with the third pick in the 1980 draft. He was and played 13 seasons and in two Super Bowls for the Bengals. "Thirteen years, and I remember him having one bad game," says Jim McNally, Mu�oz's line coach with the Bengals and now in the same position with the New York Giants. Mu�oz was named to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls and missed only 11 regular-season games, eight of those in his last season, 1992, when he suffered from sore shoulders and reinjured his left knee.
"He had this explosiveness off the ball that's so rare," says Max Montoya, who played on the same line with Mu�oz for 10 years. "It was the same thing that John Hannah of the Patriots had—he just knocked people backward with one step. I don't remember a team attacking Anthony's side. It just didn't happen. Anthony worked at his craft, too."
Mu�oz also worked at building a family, passing on most of the carousing that is available to pro athletes. On Thursday nights Esiason would treat the offensive line to dinner, and many of the diners would then take the revelry elsewhere, Friday being a light practice day in the NFL. Mu�oz would eat with his teammates and then go home. "When a bunch of guys were going out, you just didn't ask him very often," says Esiason. "You knew what the answer would be: I'm sorry, guys—Michael has a game, or Michelle has something, or I'm going home to see DeDe and the kids."
Mu�oz took his family with him to the Pro Bowl game in Hawaii most years and set aside several days before and after the game to spend time with them. During the off-season Mu�oz would do his running at a nearby high school, and Michael and Michelle would often be there with him. Every December the family attended a showing of A Christmas Carol at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park. Still does. They would take spring break vacations together. Still do. On Thanksgiving, Anthony would take Michael and Michelle into downtown Cincinnati to help serve dinner at the Salvation Army center. Still does.
Religious faith is at the center of their lives. Anthony, who had met DeDe while in high school, began dating her after his freshman year at USC, and joined her in accepting Christianity in October 1978. That decision, Mu�oz says, saved his life. "I was going hard down a bad path," he says. "Partying, hanging out, drinking. If you look at my family, you'll see drug addiction, alcoholism, crime. Early in my career, when I would go back home, I'd have to ask, Who's locked up, who's out, who's living where? The Lord showed me a lot of mercy."
Since they moved to Cincinnati in 1980, Anthony and DeDe have been active in their church there; Michael and Michelle have followed suit. Even today both kids leave home early on Sunday mornings for services and a church-related meeting at a restaurant afterward. They use the same word to describe their lives: blessed.
Both kids are also strong students. Michelle carries a 3.6 GPA, Michael a 3.3. ("Calculus dragged me down from a 3.5," he groans.) O.K., so he's not perfect. Any of his buddies who follow Michael into a rest room know not to touch the door handle, lest they grasp a freshly hocked loogie. Last Halloween, Michael dressed as Anthony, circa 1979, replete with huge Afro wig, a mustache and loud polyester. "He looked goofy, but he also looked like Anthony did back then," says DeDe.
Michael also inherited his father's athletic genes, which is why a fascinating subplot in the Mu�oz Chronicles will be Michael's attempt to measure up to the imposing standard set by his dad.