Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and recently passed Steve McNair had a healthy rivalry going throughout the final years of the 1990s and most all of this decade. The two were named Co-MVPs of the 2003 season and were generally considered the gold standard of AFC quarterbacks before Tom Brady emerged and threw his name in to the mix. Though they had contrasting styles, both Manning and McNair had that special something that only the very best quarterbacks to have played the game possess – the unquenchable thirst to compete and win, and the willingness to do whatever it took to emerge victorious each week. Both quarterbacks went about their business differently and relied on different attributes to get the job done, but for the most part, the results were the same. Manning joined WGFX in Nashville to talk about the late, great Steve McNair.
On his opening thoughts about the kind of player, competitor and person Steve McNair was, even though the two were rivals for much of their respective accomplished careers:
“Playing against him for so many years, I just know the respect that all of my teammates always had for him, all of our coaches, and just what a challenge it was playing against Steve every single Sunday – whether it was in Tennessee, of course I played against him in Baltimore a couple of times – and just what a warrior out there on the field he was. And the game was never over as long as #9 was over there on the other sidelines. And he and I had some good games against each other and it was just kind of that mutual respect…”
On the kind of warrior that McNair was and how he always managed to show up on Sundays ready to play and lead his teammates:
“I certainly can’t relate to some of the injuries that Steve has gone through, because Steve obviously running down hill, taking a lot of punishing hits. I remember that one stretch where he basically went the entire season without practicing because his body was too sore, too beat up. But every single Sunday, he was there. And to me that’s what it’s about – it’s about being there for your teammates on Sunday when they are counting on you. And Steve McNair was always there. Like I said, he may not practice on that Wednesday or Thursday simply because he couldn’t physically get out to practice. But come Sunday, he would get his treatment in, he would get it all in and he was there for his teammates on Sunday. And to me that’s an ultimate test for a quarterback.”
On sharing the 2003 MVP Award with Steve McNair:
“I tell you that was obviously special. That was a major award for me and for Steve and it was just kind of a privilege to share that with him He just had an outstanding year that year and of course we were in the same division, we had some healthy battles during that season and you know, both the Colts and the Titans were in the middle of the playoff race so when that came out and Steve and I shared that award, that was quite a privilege and quite a thrill for me to share the award in and of itself, but also sharing it with Steve McNair it even more special. And I’ve always been proud to say that I shared that award with him in 2003 just because of the kind of year he had and the kind of career that he had up to that point. It was always something that I just kind of carried near and dear to me.”