A very mediocre collection of talent at number 8 this week. Between Archie Manning, Chris Simms, and Matt Mauck, no one really stood out as being a player that needed to be on here, so I've decided to put this one on layaway. But now, for the moment you've all been waiting for.
I present to you the most highly anticipated spot on this entire list, number nine, Steve McNair.
Career Achievements: SWAC Offensive Player of the Year: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. Walter Payton Award: 1994. Pro Bowl: 2000, 2003, 2005. All-Pro: 2003. NFL MVP: 2003.
It's hard to describe what Steve McNair meant to this franchise. He brought an effect that couldn't be quantified or measured by us as fans or by analysts that get paid to do what we do here every day for free. The combination of leadership, toughness, talent, heart, and a love for the game of football set him apart from many of his colleagues.
Most of you know the back story, but Steve LaTreal McNair was born on February 14, 1973 in Mt. Olive Mississippi, population; approximately 100. His upbringing in the small, rural community with a family that depended on him to help his oldest brother, Fred, raise his younger siblings, helped forge an iron will and instilled values of hard work, perseverance, and the art of being a perfectionist. As a result of the time they spent together, his relationship with Fred was unbreakable. McNair always said he owed everything to his brother, including his career choice as Fred was always the one that Steve went to for advice on what sport he should play and where he should attend high school.
In college, McNair quarterbacked Alcorn Sate of the Division I-AA SWAC, the only school that was willing to give him a shot at quarterback. He re-payed them by becoming the only player in NCAA history to break 16,000 yards in a college career. He set nine records alone as a freshman and was named SWAC Player of the Year in all of his four seasons at Alcorn. Upon graduation, he became one of three ASU Braves to have their jerseys retired. One of the others was his older brother, Fred.
On April 22,1995, the Houston Oilers selected McNair with the third overall pick of the draft. This made him the highest drafted black quarterback ever and also made him the richest rookie in NFL history when he signed for a whopping 28.4 million dollars over 7 years. It was clear that he would need some seasoning, but when starter Chris Chandler went down that season, McNair stepped in and led the Titans to two straight victories over the Jets and Bills. In 1996, he began to see the field more often and appeared in 10 games, starting 4 of them. 1997 was the year that his career really took off. When the team moved to Tennessee, McNair decided it was either time to put up or shut up. He became the league's youngest franchise QB and started out the Titans on the right foot in Nashville. The rest is history, you all know as well as I do about his countless injuries that he battled through every year, you all know about the 2003 MVP, and you all certainly know about the trip to the Super Bowl back in the dawn of the millennium.
While Steve will probably never make it to Canton, I think you'd be hard pressed to ever find a guy who brought so much to a community. He was a true warrior from the first day he stepped onto the field in two-toned blue to the last day that he ever suited up for that wretched purple and black. I'll never forget McNair. When I have kids, I'm naming them after him, I'll be wearing a McNair jersey on my wedding day, and of course, I'll be rocking the number 9 until the day they make me hang 'em up.