It was a moving, surreal scene to start a football game before Monday night’s tilt at NRG Stadium when the Texas A&M University Singing Cadets sang a somber rendition of “Amazing Grace” in tribute to Bob McNair, the Houston Texans’ owner, founder and chief executive officer who died at age 80 on Friday.
The Texans team responded in a big way for McNair in the primetime bout with a 34-17 win over the Tennessee Titans (coincidentally, the former Houston Oilers). The game saw the Texans set a franchise record for longest winning streak at eight and longest touchdown run with Lamar Miller’s 97-yard burst that proved to be a huge early game changer.
McNair was remembered as the man who brought the NFL back to the city of Houston. He was also remembered for his local charitable contributions and leading bids for two Super Bowls to be held in the city.
For these things alone, McNair brought joy to countless lives. But, there are also so many more little things this franchise, with McNair running it, has done, which makes measuring his complete impact in the Houston area pretty much a mathematical impossibility.
I need look no further than an experience of my own to prove this point.
In October of 1999, McNair won a bid to start a new NFL team in Houston, filling the void left when the Oilers moved to Tennessee after the 1996 season and overcoming a competing offer from a heavily favored Los Angeles group. At that time, there may have been no greater Houston sports hero than McNair, and as a young sports fan, I was ecstatic to have an NFL team back in Houston.
Flash forward to the spring of 2002. The Texans were getting their first-ever offseason activities underway. I was a senior in high school, and had discovered the school newspaper as an outlet for my love of writing. Those two things would intersect in an event that definitely impacted my life.
One fine day in newspaper class in that spring of 2002, our newspaper adviser announced that McNair and the Texans were inviting high school newspaper students from all over the Houston area to take part in our very own media day type of event, and that myself and another senior editor would be representing Alvin High School’s “The Clarion” newspaper.
Looking back on it, I have to hand it to a savvy businessman like McNair to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to generate publicity for the new team.
So, the big day came. A bunch of high school journalists gathered inside of the Texans’ practice bubble to question and listen to the team’s representatives. The first to talk to us was McNair, and I was admittedly star-struck. After McNair was then-general manager Charlie Casserly, former cornerback Aaron Glenn and then-head coach Dom Capers.
I was eager to talk to all of them, but at the same time, I wanted to present them with an intelligent question worthy of the event, which I was taking quite seriously. Eventually, I shook off my nerves and asked Capers how he thought the 2002 Texans team compared to the expansion Carolina Panthers team he previously coached, which had a respectable 7-9 record in their first season in 1995 and then went 12-4 in 1996.
It was my first real taste of sports reporting, and I loved it. Before that day, I had always dreamed of one day being a sports writer, but never considered it a realistic possibility. After my experience with the Texans, I, at least, had something tangible in my memories for which to strive.
That’s just one story from one minor thing McNair did with the Texans that positively impacted a life. Who knows how many other similar stories there are out there?
For that, thank you Mr. McNair.