Another pause for the cause with the death of former NFL Quarterback, Steve "Air" McNair.
In the wake of the Tennessee Titans' painful loss to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, Steve McNair sat in front of his locker in a quiet room of the Georgia Dome, and he cried.
"So close," McNair said of the championship game's final play, when Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson was stopped by Rams linebacker Mike Jones 1 yard shy of the end zone and a tying score. "It was so very close."
And what I recall foremost about that game and the minutes immediately after it, more than Dyson's almost-touchdown or the dynamic 73-yard reception by Isaac Bruce for the contest's winning score, is the glint of tears in Steve McNair's eyes that day.
Noted for his toughness and his uncanny ability to play through pain (a trait he credited to his old coach at Mt. Olive High School in Mississippi), it was rare to witness McNair so much as wince during his 13 NFL seasons, let alone weep openly. And that's why those tears -- not the kind that roll down a person's face, but the sort that shone unmistakably in his baleful eyes -- were so stunningly incongruous that they couldn't help but stick with any person witnessing them.
Today, it's the rest of us who are left saddened by the untimely loss of a terrific player and, more than that, a good man. Few NFL players have performed with the kind of innate competitiveness that McNair possessed. Not many men played the game with such passion and determination. And those qualities arguably should be the first things people remember about Steve McNair.
He talked a bit about football and chasing the ring, family and blessings. I remember thinking he was a nice guy who could've dominated the league and collected that ring had he played for a real team at the right time. He was a monster on the field, an Ironman, man among men. Soft-spoken and polite off the field. I saw him once after that and he remembered me and called me by name. I teased him and asked him if he could come play for the Cowboys. He laughed and he talked about some of the charity and foundation work he had going. Sigh... He will be missed.
I'm tired of the sad news and this one stings more than a little bit. I'll raise a glass for Steve this weekend and send up a prayer for his family. Rest in Peace, Steve.
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