George, McNair gladly shared spotlight in building legacy

Monday, July 6, 2009 at 9:38pm

Steve McNair was as competitive a football player as has ever suited up for the Tennessee Titans franchise.

However, there was one important area in which the star quarterback was not in competition, but rather was part of a dual role in re-establishing the franchise’s identity. That role — leadership and being the face of the franchise, a responsibility and a bond that McNair, who was murdered Saturday in Nashville condominium, shared with running back Eddie George.

As George tells it, McNair was the spirit and soul of those Titans teams that relocated from Houston and carved an indelible niche into the consciousness of the City of Nashville and beyond. George was simply the more vocal portion of that tandem in terms of leading their teammates.

“He was the spirit, and I was the voice. Plain and simple,” George said. “We drew off his spirit, his determination and I just spoke it. That was a great tandem. It was never a competition of who’s getting the most attention or who’s the star. It was if we’re successful, we’re all going to be successful.

“That was truly a team effort, and we had one goal in mind and that was to win a championship and to build relationships off of that, lasting relationships. I’ve learned to embrace that over the years in reflecting back over my career, realizing that in this facility and in this town and this city was something special.”

George and McNair held a familiar ritual before every game in the tunnel just before heading onto the field to begin a game.

“My favorite memory is right before we’d go out to battle, we would give handshakes to everybody coming out of that locker room, coaches, players, staff, anybody wearing a Titans uniform, and just look them in the eye for that final confirmation that we’re all ready,” George recalled. “He and I would stand out front and at the very last moment, turn to each other and say, ‘I love you,’ and embrace and go out to war.”

McNair and George, both first-round picks in consecutive years, were teammates for eight seasons, and the running back said the pre-game ritual never got old.

“That was special to me every single time. I know that I was going to give my best and he was going to give his. We expected everybody else to give theirs from the trainers on up,” George said.

Their shared identity as the faces of the franchise was noticed by coaches and teammates alike.
“He along with Eddie [George], Frank [Wycheck], Brad [Hopkins] and some of the teammates, they were the poster boys of this franchise,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said “They put us once again in the National Football League because I think for a few years we disappeared going through what we were going through during that [moving] process. When we finally got to town and got settled in 1999 it is obvious what happened. He was a tremendous part of that.”

McNair might have had a quiet and reserved persona outwardly, but it masked the fierce competitor that lay beneath.

“He was a very, very quiet competitor. He had this internal drive, this motivation that as coaches we would like to tap into and spread around. It was a very unique quality,” Fisher said.
Current and former Titans saw it alike, as well as the many injuries McNair battled just to be on the field on Sundays.

“I don't think that anybody should ever look past the remarkable things he did on the field. ... He was, and always will be a pillar of this organization,” said Brad Hopkins, the left tackle who protected McNair’s blind side for his entire tenure with the Titans franchise.

It is a legacy left behind by a cornerstone of the franchise built in Tennessee, something even players who never played with McNair are aware of, says long snapper Ken Amato, one of a handful of current Titans to have been McNair’s teammate.

“They don’t realize it on hand because they weren’t here, but they know what Steve meant to the Titans,” McNair said.

And while the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death, and his relationship with Sahel Kazemi, certainly leaves a different slant on his legacy, football-wise, George said there can be no doubt of the quarterback will be remembered.

“I don’t want to dig into it, because it’s irrelevant, because you’ve still lost a friend. It’s not gonna bring him back,” George said. “Instead of harping on the dirt and the grit, I choose to focus on his life and his spirit, the good times that he blessed me with and the wins he blessed me with and the sadness that we shared together in building something special.

“It was put together not by coincidence, but by a group of guys that meant something to each other, to bring that energy forth and to put together what you see here today. It was special.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: jwk6179 on 7/7/09 at 10:12

I know that I will lambasted by certain people on here that think they are MEMBERS of the TITANS (Titan1, et al), but the Nashville Media is making a HERO out of SOMEONE that WOULD NOT BE DEAD TODAY IF HE HAD BEEN A REAL MAN AND REMAINED FAITHFUL TO HIS WIFE!!! 104.5 the ZONE has been comparing the death of Steve McNair to that of JFK. One of the host on the Zone last night made the statement that condo where Steve McNair met his "Tragic and Untimely" death would be a place where Nashvillians will bring the friends and families from out of town to pay tribute to a GREAT MAN for years to come. And another host stated that we will always remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard that Steve McNair had been killed. That is going too far.

By: Titan9282 on 7/7/09 at 11:50

Dude, seriously, if you do not like what you hear change the channel. That goes for all of you other Mcnair haters. jwk6179, I bet you can walk on water. Or better yet, I bet you can turn water into wine. No!!!! I did not think so. He was human, just like you, and just like me. You do not know the circumstances behind this at all. Maybe, he was going to tell her that he was going to break it off and stay loyal to his wife. Maybe, he and Mechelle were seperated and he was just trying to figure stuff out. You do not know what Steve was thinking or acting. And until you do, it is not fair to him or his family to judge him. Besides, if we can rent out an entire arena to idolize Michael Jackson, then you knowI think Steve can get a little admiration too. let's not get into Michael and all his dirty laundry.

To all you Steve fans out there, let's remember him for the player and humanitarium that he was. I bet you anything that Steve McNair did more for this city than most. I bet there are more stories of how Steve helped or his kindness was to people than there are of Steve blowing people off. I am so sick of all these people judging Steve McNair when they do not the facts. To those people, get off your high horses and come back down to reality!!!!!

REST IN PEACE #9!!!! Thank you so much for all the great memories!!!! You will be missed!!!!!

By: TITAN1 on 7/7/09 at 12:03

jw, you are entitled to your opinion, however "sucky" it is. You and your alter egos always bash our hometown Titans. As Titan9282 said, if you don't like what you hear, turn the channel. We all make mistakes. I'll bet you use a lot of Windex on that glass house.

By: jwk6179 on 7/7/09 at 5:27

I never said I was perfect, a saint or was without sin. I'm only HUMAN, also. I was FAITHFUL to my first wife and I am FAITHFUL to my CURRENT WIFE. I've had CHANCES to be unfaithful to my first wife and my current wife, but unlike Steve McNair, I've never acted on the chance. And if there is any validaty to the story that ran in Yesterday's City Paper about the incident at Blue Moon Cafe, this wasn't the FIRST TIME he was unfaithful to Mechelle.

As far as whether he was going to break it of to "Stay Loyal' To Mechelle or if he and Mechelle were separated, he was STILL LEGALLY MARRIED, therefore he was committing ADULTRY.

And as far as 104.5 the Zone, when that's all they have talked about for the last several days. Everytime someone has come to give an opinion simular to mine the last two days, they have basically been cut off or they suddenly are up against a comercial break. At least 560 WSNR is giving both sides of the story and Thom Abraham and Joe Biddle are both calling out Steve McNair for his lifestyle.

By: TITAN1 on 7/7/09 at 6:29

His relationship was out in the open, I find it hard to believe that his wife did not know. He has a car in his and her name and he shares a condo. JMO, but I think he and his wife have an arrangement to do whatever they want. JMO.

By: house_of_pain on 7/8/09 at 6:08

jwk has a wife?! I just always thought he was...well, never mind.
We are mourning the loss of a great football player. That's it. Let us do that, please.
BTW, Biddle is a hack.

By: Titan9282 on 7/8/09 at 12:01

jwk, If Steve Mcnair was having an affair, that is between him, Mechelle, and God. Not you. it is none of you business nor mine. I am praising the man for what he did on the field and for the community. If you have a problem with that, TOUGH!!!!!!!!!