Steve McNair will always be a Titan
Some random thoughts on Steve McNair:
As I wrote earlier, one of my favorite memories of Steve McNair was the end of the 2002 Giants game. I'll always remember when he ran for the game-tying two point conversion with the ball held above his head, like a trophy, as he crossed the goal line. That was one of those games when he could barely get off the bus and wasn't expected to play.
There was the last drive in the Super Bowl, when he nearly pulled off the impossible after an incredible play when he escaped Kevin Carter's grasp. The long run against the Jaguars to seal the win in the AFC championship game. And so many other moments on the field.
There are the off-field moments too. He spearheaded a relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The results were fantastic, of course. As memory serves, I believe there were 27 or so truckloads of food, supplies and clothing which he sent to southern Mississippi. And it probably didn't surprise anyone that he helped unload donated goods from people's cars and personally thanked them for their generosity.
Steve was recognized for his efforts in the community quite a few times. He's won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, the JB (James Brown) award, and several local awards from the Chamber of Commerce and various civic organizations.
I've been fortunate to get some perspective on McNair from what others have had to say about him over the years.
When Bruce Matthews retired, he said he wished he had been born five or ten years later, so that he could have played longer with McNair.
Steve once missed about five games after back surgery and Neil O'Donnell quarterbacked the Titans to four or five wins. I don't why, but somehow the question came up if there was now a quarterback controversy and who would be the starter when McNair returned. Jeff Fisher promptly ended all speculation when he said, "Steve McNair is our quarterback."
Although the defense had plenty of leaders of their own, I've heard many of the defensive players say they regarded Steve as their leader. Now that I think about it, it was the same on offense. Even though the offense had great leadership from Eddie, Bruce and Frank, it was Steve who set the tone for the offense and the entire team.
Kevin Carter once called McNair the toughest player in the league. And he meant mental toughness just as much as physical toughness.
McNair showed a lot of class in handling the situation with the salary cap problems which led to his trade. The Titans removed the banner with his likeness from the stadium immediately following the trade, but I didn't remove my autographed picture of him from my wall. And it remained there even though he was no longer officially a Titan.
Steve McNair will always be a Titan in the minds of Titans fans. His two years in Baltimore were simply an aberration.
Thanks for the memories, Steve.