Howard Mudd on Co- Author Dick Lister: I had retired from coaching in the NFL to live in the Seattle area so I could enjoy grandkids and ride my motorcycle. I love the Seattle area with the contrasts of deep greenery, blue skies, water, the smell of the air, the taste of the water and of course mountains. One day I got this call from a guy interested in writing a book about offensive lineman in the NFL. Dick Lister qualified himself by saying he had written an in depth book about NFL officials, The Third Team. He had worked closely with Bill Corollo, the Big 10 and ACC commissioner of officials who I had also known through my years of coaching and he was an NFL referee and did a seminar for his umpires. At the end of the officials project Dick told Bill Corollo how he wanted to write a book about offensive linemen so Bill recommended me and gave him my contact info. When Dick called he really endeared himself to me by telling me how he had remembered me when he was in college and while playing in the Pro Bowl we practiced at UCLA. I was flattered that anyone would remember that far back.
I had been encouraged to write a book about my experiences in the NFL by coaching mates over the years. I absolutely loved what I did, coaching the O Line. It’s by far the best job in the NFL besides playing. I got to coach and mentor the smartest, toughest minded, hardest working and most selfless group in, arguably, the most complete team sport in the world. When Dick approached me with his qualifications and his reference about the officials as a team I was excited to explore this project. It seemed like an opportunity to say it like it really is as told by those who had gotten knocked on their ass and had to get up and perform afterwards. After all, this is the most misunderstood area of the most popular sport in the US. What they do, how it’s done and who they are has never been explored at one time. Dick Lister wanted to tackle it. He referenced a book about ESPN “They Have All The Fun” where the personalities and the process of that entity was revealed. His own book about the officials was a good reference.
I thought “what the hell?” Why not? So I met with him and gave him my ground rule that this wasn’t to be a book about the old TV show “This Is Your Life, Howard Mudd”. I wanted someone to be able to explain the Mind, Body and Spirit of our little team within a team individually and collectively. I had had close to 50 years in the NFL as a player and coach and there were these rich experiences I had wanted shared. So that started us on our journey.
What has materialized far exceeds my most ambitious expectation. Dick and I spent many days exploring the characteristics of what and how it’s done from schematics to individual techniques. We diagramed schemes and pushed and pulled on each other so he could really understand what and how. In addition he utilized my contacts to interview current and prior players for their perspective about “what they did” during their time and “who they are”.
Now comes the best part. I know each of the contributors, some to a greater degree than others. Therefore, I know who they are and what their personalities are like. Dick Lister captured each one of them perfectly. I felt that this unfolded just like he envisioned, a bunch of O Linemen sitting around sharing their View From the O Line. Our agent, Sarah Younger suggested we use the timeline of my life as a player and coach and spin off similar stories to share. It was brilliant and Dick did a masterful job of carrying that theme. I tell a story about an aspect and suggest other contributors share their experience about the same subject. Dick Lister was deadly accurate as he captured the essence of the personalities of these contributors. I know because I know the contributors personally.
One of the nest aspects of this project is I have a new friend and we share many aspects of our personal lives. Cooking is just one of them.
Dick Lister on Howard Mudd: I settled down to watch a television show highlighting the years’ All-Pro team. It was 1968, having much earlier become a junkie for football. I wouldn’t be watching a game, but I wanted to see anything having to do with the sport I loved.
As a devout follower, I thought I knew everyone who would be honored in the program. But the right guard was unfamiliar. His highlight clip showed him make a shallow pull, engage the Sam linebacker, and lift the defender from his feet in perfect form. The image stuck with me. I can still picture it. It was the first time I’d heard the name Howard Mudd.
When his name surfaced over his coaching years, it always took me back to that film clip. I’m not sure how it slipped past me that he served as a co-offensive line coach with my hometown San Diego Chargers in the 70s. But I paid enough attention to know that he eventually became one of the NFL’s most respected coaches, especially during his 12 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
When I decided to write a book about the offensive line, I knew I wanted it set in a roundtable format with voices from past and present offensive linemen. I thought Howard would make a perfect “moderator.” But he had no idea who I was. I cold called him. After telling him about my idea, what evolved was remarkable.
Though many had urged him to write a book about his life, that idea didn’t interest him at all. He stressed that he would be “all over” anything that would move the O-line into the spotlight. But he didn’t want it to be about him.
So we set out on our collaboration. We love how it evolved, with its 20 past and present offensive linemen contributing. We tied their oral histories to a narrative tracking Howard’s career. Its composite gives the reader a look into the men who are the most important, least heralded players on the field.
Over the course of the project Howard and I grew to become friends. That is common for him. He has many—and not just inside the game. He has cultivated friendships far and wide owing to his nature. He is preternaturally interested in others.
So at the end of our work he fretted that the book was more about him than he thought it would be. I assured him that the offensive line’s story is best told by including his story. But he was somewhat uneasy about being the focus.
And that’s perfect. Because for the offensive lineman, it’s not about him. It’s all about helping those around him.