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Message Subject Steve McNair dead at 36, victim of an apparent murder-suicide
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The following story appeared on SportingNews.com on April 18, 2008:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pick a moment.

Steve McNair shaking off Kevin Carter in the closing moments of the 2000 Super Bowl to complete a pass.
McNair grimacing through pain, then scoring a two-point conversion to force overtime in another game.

For left tackle Brad Hopkins, his favorite memory of McNair came during a play the quarterback watched from the sideline: The Music City Miracle in the Titans' playoff win over Buffalo in 2000.

"The camera was on Steve the whole time. You could see his face changing. 'Man, it's not on my shoulders anymore. I'll take this in a million years.' It was just watching Steve's elation to have to move his task expected of him onto somebody else, which was Kevin Dyson," Hopkins recalled Thursday, referring to the receiver who took a lateral on a kickoff for the winning touchdown.

McNair, 35, announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday after 13 seasons, the last two with the Baltimore Ravens.

He was a star quarterback for the Titans' first nine seasons in Tennessee, helping the team settle into its new home and new nickname in 1999 by finishing off that inaugural season by reaching the Super Bowl.

McNair led the Titans to the playoffs in four of five seasons, including the 2002 AFC championship, despite injuries that kept him from practicing the final five weeks of that season.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher recalled some of his favorite McNair stories.

Fisher said one of his fondest memories came in the quarterback's final year with the Titans. Before a November game against Pittsburgh, Fisher was at a Nashville hospital for his son when he saw McNair, who was getting an injection just so he could play that week.

McNair didn't want anyone to know.

"What he did to play week in and week out as his career moved on and progressed, and how he overcame so many things from an injury standpoint, I can probably give you dozens of games in which he played in that I assure you nobody else would have played in those games," Fisher said.

His injuries often seemed to overshadow what he accomplished on the field as only the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30,000 yards and run for 3,500, joining Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young.

Diagrams often were printed to track the numerous injuries to all parts of his body and eventually the team dedicated a whole page to those diagrams.

"If you don't take those things into consideration when talking about Steve and the accomplishments he made, you're missing the point of the whole thing," Hopkins said. "He did it, and he's always done it as a competitor. He's one of those guys you want your young quarterbacks to be like him as far as the toughness."

Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who rejoined the Titans this offseason and was the coordinator for most of McNair's stay in Tennessee, said McNair was the ultimate leader.

"He was going to take the blame for a loss. He was always holding himself accountable, even if it wasn't his fault, Heimerdinger said. "And I'm not sure he always got the credit for the success."

McNair nearly helped force what would have been the first overtime in Super Bowl history in 2000, driving the Titans down the field before coming up 1 yard short as time expired. In that 12-play, 87-yard drive, he shook off St. Louis end Kevin Carter and completed a key conversion.

"That's all heart and determination that allow you to shake off Kevin Carter," Hopkins said. "The guy was killing quarterbacks. He was digesting daily on quarterbacks like Steve and for Steve to treat him like that. ... We always teased (Carter) about it when he came to us."

Want a game-winning drive? He provided plenty. During that five-game stretch in 2002, a rib strain and back problems almost kept him from playing. Not only did he play, he ran in for a 2-point conversion to force overtime in a win against the Giants. In the playoffs, he led an overtime win over Pittsburgh after losing a chunk of flesh from his thumb.

A year later, McNair was voted the co-MVP with Peyton Manning for a 12-4 season in which he led the NFL with a 100.4 passer rating. He capped the season in New England in the coldest game ever played by Tennessee, limping on a damaged ankle before falling short 17-14.

That was the last big highlight for McNair in Tennessee.

He reinjured his sternum in 2004, playing in only eight games. He earned a third Pro Bowl berth in 2005 for a rebuilding team that went 4-12, and was traded to Baltimore in June 2006.

But his legacy will always be the Titans.

"Steve was the face of this franchise when we arrived here," Fisher said. "And I think in a lot of ways will always be one of the faces of this franchise."
 
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