NASHVILLE – Eddie George stood behind a podium on Wednesday and reflected on his departure from the NFL.
George was one of the league’s most successful running backs during his playing career, and one of the most accomplished Titans. When he retired from the league, however, he never held a press conference to say goodbye.
So that made this day – when Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced plans for his No.27 jersey to be retired – even more special.
The fact Steve McNair’s No.9 jersey will be retired on the same day made it all so perfect.
“To have it retired with my partner in crime, Steve McNair, it means a lot,” George said. “We were always linked at the hip during our playing careers. We’ve been through a lot of wars together both on and off the football field. To go down this day, to have our jerseys retired on the same day is huge for us.
“It has to be with Steve. 2 plus 7 equals 9. … It is totally appropriate to see us go in together.”
McNair’s No. 9 jersey and George’s No. 27 jersey will be retired in a ceremony during the Sept. 15 home opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced today.
“This is a big moment for me personally because I love these guys, and I know my dad loved these guys, and he will be so happy and proud that we were honoring them today,” Strunk said. “This is the highest honor that we can bestow on a Titans player, and both of them are deserving for their significant contributions to our franchise. Steve and Eddie’s accomplishments are on par with the NFL’s best players in history, and amongst the greatest of all Titans.”
McNair played 11 seasons with the club (1995–2005), becoming its second all-time leading passer (27,141 yards) and recording more wins as a starter (76) than any other franchise quarterback.
George spent eight seasons with the team (1996–2003). He is the organization’s all-time leading rusher (10,009) as well as its all-time scrimmage yards leader (12,153). George played his final NFL season with the Cowboys, and always hoped he'd get another chance to play again.
The jerseys of George and McNair were on display at a press conference at Saint Thomas Sports Park. In NFL history, 151 jerseys have been retired, so McNair and George will make 152 and 153. It’s the first time in NFL history a 9 or a 27 have been retired.
Titans radio play-by-play man Mike Keith read a statement from Steve McNair’s widow Mechelle McNair at the press conference.
“Retiring his jersey is a really big deal for us,” Mechelle McNair said in the statement. “It is a tangible reminder for me and the boys to know that No.9 will forever be held in the highest regard in the Titans nation.”
George, his wife and two sons in attendance, thanked Amy Adams Strunk for the honor.
McNair and George join six other former Titans and Oilers to have their jersey numbers retired: safety/punter Jim Norton (43), defensive end Elvin Bethea (65), running back Earl Campbell (34), guard Mike Munchak (63), offensive lineman Bruce Matthews (74) and quarterback Warren Moon (1).
George recalled some of the most memorable moments of his career, including a playoff battle against the Baltimore Ravens. He also reflected on McNair’s maturity, and his struggles before reaching MVP status.
During the duo’s time together (1996–2003), the team’s 80-48 record (.625) ranked third in the NFL behind only the Green Bay Packers’ 88-40 record (.688) and the Denver Broncos’ 83-45 (.648) mark.
During the NFL Draft, George wore McNair’s No.9 to honor him.
In a few months, they’ll be honored again – together.
“It kind of puts the period on my career, I guess,” George said. “This is a huge honor.”
The Tennessee Titans announce they are retiring the jersey numbers of franchise legends Eddie George and Steve McNair. (Photos: Donald Page)
A first-round pick (14th overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1996 NFL Draft, Eddie George became only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards, while never missing a start, as Tennessee's starter through 2003. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
A first-round pick (3rd overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 NFL Draft, Steve McNair led the Titans to the playoffs four times, including an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV, while passing for 27,141 yards and 156 TDs in 11 seasons with the franchise. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP, Mike Mu)