NASHVILLE, TN - Close friends and teammates of Steve McNair remember him for his leadership, his generosity, and his toughness, but most people have no idea just how tough the NFL quarterback really was, said former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner today.
"Two people suffered back injuries that Sunday afternoon," recalled Warner, speaking of 2000's Superbowl XXXIV, an epic battle between his own Rams and McNair's Tennessee Titans.
"One of them was Steve," he said.
Warner explained that, while most everyone knows Superbowl XXXIV was stopped for several minutes on behalf of Titans cornerback Blaine Bishop, who injured his spine making a tackle and had to leave the game, McNair actually broke his back a few plays later and "just kept right on playing."
According to Warner, McNair was face-masked on a 12-yard scramble with less than two minutes left to play.
The severe twisting motion of the tackle, unknown to everyone at the time but McNair himself, fractured his spinal column in three places, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Warner said Steve McNair just smiled.
The gutsy player refused to yield to the injury, fighting off its crippling effects by means of sheer will and determination as he struggled to his feet.
Gritting his teeth for the next few minutes, McNair completed a pass, ran for several yards, and at one point was hit by two Rams defenders, escaping to complete yet another pass.
Though the game ended in a back-breaking loss for the All-Pro quarterback and his Titans, Kurt Warner says his departed friend didn't believe in wins or losses, only in accomplishments.
"I had my tough times, but you don't sit there and say, 'Wow, I was stocking groceries five years ago, and look at me now.' You don't think about it, and when you do achieve something, you know luck has nothing to do with it." - Steve McNair