CINCINNATI — Isaac Curtis attended the game last year when the Cincinnati Bengals recognized their first class of Ring of Honor inductees in a halftime ceremony. Curtis says he couldn’t help but think how exciting it would be if he ever received that honor.
On Thursday, the former Bengals wide receiver will be on hand to see his own name put up on display at Paycor Stadium.
Curtis and former right tackle Willie Anderson are the two members of the 2022 induction class, and the Bengals will be honoring them in a halftime presentation during the team’s Thursday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins. They join Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz, Ken Anderson and the late Ken Riley in the Ring of Honor.
“I think it will be emotional,” Curtis said. “I’m looking forward to it. I was there last year when Kenny Anderson and Ken Riley went in and it was just so exciting. I was so excited for them and I just thought it was such a great honor. … My wife usually tells me I don’t get excited about much of anything, it doesn’t seem like it, but she says, ‘You really seem to be excited about this.’ And it is really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it and I really appreciate being selected by the fans.”
Anderson has been on the radar as a finalist in the Football Hall of Fame process and is grateful to be getting recognized by the Bengals organization. He recalled when he received the phone call to inform him he had been voted in, being surprised to hear from owner Mike Brown.
Brown had always showed his support for Anderson, though, going back to when he made his first Pro Bowl in 2003 and the owner gave him a handwritten letter thanking him for his contributions to the organization. The letter also stated he should have been selected years earlier.
“Having him call me and tell me that I’ve been inducted was coming full circle,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who played in 181 games for the Bengals from 1996 to 2007 and earned four Pro Bowl nods, is tied for eighth on the team’s all-time list for most appearances. He notably blocked for Corey Dillon’s two NFL-record setting games and also helped set the club record for fewest sacks allowed twice, at 21 in 2005, and later again at 17 in 2007.
Curtis played for the Bengals from 1973 to 1984 and still holds the team record for average yards per reception (17.07). The four-time Pro Bowler ranks third in team history in both career receiving yards (7,101) and 100-yard games (20), as well as fourth in receiving touchdowns (53).
Both Curtis and Willie Anderson acknowledged the players from the first Ring of Honor class as paving a path for them to be successful in their own careers.
Ken Anderson was the Bengals quarterback throughout Curtis’ entire NFL career. Riley was a cornerback on the team then, too, and also played a role in Curtis’ development.
“Kenny Anderson was a tremendous quarterback and tremendous help to me,” Curtis said. “When I came in, I was very fortunate to have a quarterback like that. And Ken Riley, you know, going up against Ken Riley in practice every day, it made me a better player and really, really helped me in my rookie year coming into the league. I was kind of a green wide receiver, being only a wide receiver one year my senior year in college, so I had a lot to learn. … Kenny was really the guy that was there. He would pick up on things that I needed to do if I was giving away my pattern, my routes. He would really come up to me and talk to me about what I need to do to get better and work. So, he was certainly an example on and off the field.”
Curtis said as a former running back, he always knew how to cut and make moves, and as a former track star, he had the speed, but not having much experience at the receiver position, he leaned on the knowledge of others around him and was appreciative to be surrounded by so many talented players who were willing to help.
Willie Anderson shared similar experiences coming in and trying to follow in the footsteps of Munoz, a Hall of Fame left tackle. He hopes he did the same for future right tackles in the game.
“Just following Anthony’s footsteps, it’s a hard path to follow,” he said. “I love to think that I brought a lot of attention towards the right tackle position. … Back then we had bigger guys that rushed over the other side, guys were huge back then. You had grown men at that left defensive end spot, and we didn’t have any guys with the size and power to play that position, so they moved me over there especially because we got Corey Dillon.
“In the time I played, it was a running football league early on, … so that was a standard back then to be a dominant run blocker in the mid-90s. But football changed, and I’d like to say that it evolved with football and became a dominant pass protector as well.”
As the game evolves, “old timers” like Curtis, as he classified his age group, and Anderson enjoy still being acknowledged for the paths they helped pave.
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