Anthony Muñoz sang the praises of his fellow USC alum and one of the New York Jets’ two first-round picks, Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Muñoz, Vera-Tucker’s fellow University of Southern California alum, told Jets team reporter Jack Bell about his high hopes for the 14th overall pick of April’s draft earlier this week. The two Trojans were able to spend some time together at a mentor/mentee event hosted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame prior to the draft.
The pair’s SoCal connection made them a perfect pairing and Muñoz is intrigued to see what Vera-Tucker can bring to an NFL lineup. Muñoz was drafted third overall by Cincinnati in 1980 and played 13 years in the NFL, a career that ended with Hall of Fame honors in 1998.
“We went over some techniques, and he asked a lot of questions. Some guys are hesitant, but we talked it through. I showed him stuff, he showed me stuff,” Muñoz said in describing the event. “When it’s time to produce I wouldn’t look at Vera-Tucker on the field like there’s a rookie out there. He’s just a rookie because he was drafted. Once he starts mixing it up, that’s all behind him. He wants a starting position. He’s just going to be poised, polite, then you’ll see a different side once he’s on the field.”
Muñoz was particularly impressed by Vera-Tucker’s final season in red and yellow. He originally opted out of the season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but joined back in once the Pac-12 Conference moved forward with its season.
Vera-Tucker was moved from guard to tackle and played a major role in USC’s 5-1 season that ended in the conference title game.
For his efforts, Vera-Tucker earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and the Morris Trophy annually awarded to the conference’s best linemen. But, according to Muñoz, the newfound fame hasn’t gotten to the rookie’s head.
“I knew he was versatile, to move from inside to outside and to be effective,” Muñoz said. “I knew he was a pretty good offensive lineman, but the thing I noticed right away was how genuine and down to earth he is.
“At the same time, he’s focused and eager to get to work. He wanted to learn. That’s the sign of a guy who’s going to be a great, great player. He wants to learn and he’s not satisfied with his performance at the college level.”
The Jets traded up with the Minnesota Vikings to take Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick this spring. He is currently slated to take the Jets’ primary left guard role next to last season’s premier pick, tackle Mekhi Becton.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags