Titans Senior Executive Vice President/COO Mike Reinfeldt presented the five Hall of Fame players with framed, artist-drawn portraits that included a patch with the logo of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Reinfeldt said the organization, on behalf of Owner and Founder K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr., was pleased to recognize the players who were so instrumental in the history of the franchise and helping the NFL increase its popularity.
Moon, Bethea and Houston said they felt as if they had returned home, even though they were in a different city than the one they called home during their careers. They also attended Monday’s game between the Titans and the New York Jets at LP Field.
“It’s always great to see former teammates or guys you played with or against or have watched them play, and it’s good to be back here in Nashville,” Moon said. “I’ve been here three or four times on behalf of this team, and I still feel like I’m welcome and I still feel like there’s so many people still here that I recognize, that I know that are still part of the organization, so it’s great to be back.”
Moon played with the Oilers 10 seasons, setting numerous franchise passing records. He was teammates with Munchak and Matthews for each of those seasons, which included a streak of seven straight postseason appearances (1987-93). He said his favorite memory from those days was the way the team worked through its struggles those first three seasons to eventually reach their goals.
“I think just the fact that we went through those lean years the first few years, and when we finally had our first playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks and won that first game at the Astrodome,” Moon said. “I remember walking off that field, just knowing we finally have arrived. We finally got over that mountaintop and did what we set out to do from the beginning.”
Houston was drafted by the Oilers in 1967 and was with them until 1972. He transitioned from playing center and linebacker in college to an All-Pro safety and experienced the team’s final years in the American Football League (first season was 1960) that was co-founded by Adams and Lamar Hunt and its early days as a member of the NFL.
“I’d really like to thank Mr. Adams and the group here in Tennessee,” Houston said. “They’ve done a great job. We hated to lose the team in Houston, but it feels good to be part of a tradition, and it’s good to feel remembered. I feel like I’m part of the group and it’s such a warmth here, to be with them.”
Bethea’s career lasted from 1968-83, overlapping with Houston, Reinfeldt, Munchak and Matthews along the way. He set a franchise record in service, which was later eclipsed by Matthews, and sacks. Bethea was a rookie when the Oilers began playing in the Astrodome, and durable enough to “test” Munchak and Matthews when they were rookies on the practice field.
“They were tough,” Bethea said. “When young guys come in, an offensive guy across from me, and I always tried to test everybody out, and we had some heated discussions at times, but everything worked out. It was good for all of us.
“You could hit every day, and after practice, just go home, but you’d learn from each other, and everybody was honing their skills,” Bethea continued. “To see them where they are now, it’s a great feeling that they have accomplished. They’ve done an outstanding job.”
Reinfeldt, an All-Pro safety with the Oilers (1976-83), and Munchak have made commitments to linking past players with current players and want to continue to build those relationships.
Former Titans/Oilers greats Eddie George, Derrick Mason, Brad Hopkins, Blaine Bishop and Keith Bulluck joined the Hall of Famers at Monday’s lunch.
Munchak asked Houston and Bethea to address the team Sunday night when he found out their travel schedules would allow for it, and Moon, who is a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks, addressed the team Monday.
“When I realized that they could be in town in time to talk to the team, I thought that was even more important because we got a lot of mileage out of that,” Munchak said. “I think these guys have heard me talk about some of the greats of this organization and back in the Oiler years, and to have them come in and speak to the team, I think all three of these guys meant a lot to the players, and I think these guys enjoyed it. I think they enjoyed passing on the wisdom of what they’ve overcome and done in their careers.”
Munchak said he wants the former and current players to understand that they are connected by the bond of representing the organization.
“I think these guys made that point last night, so I think it sunk in that you are playing for something more than yourself when you play the game this evening or the games next year,” Munchak said. “These guys are expecting a high standard of play, a high standard of how you handle yourselves on and off the field, and I think it was good for them to hear that.”