NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Kevin Carter thinks back to Super Bowl XXXIV, he recalls the confetti falling and the emotional celebration that took place on the winning sideline.
Carter was a member of the victorious St. Louis Rams back then.
Carter also remembers the competitiveness of the Tennessee Titans, and one player in particular – quarterback Steve McNair.
In fact, one of the most famous snapshots of that game – McNair escaping the grasp of Carter and fellow Rams defensive lineman Jay Williams on the game's final drive – will be etched in his mind forever.
"We were draped over the back of him, and (Steve) somehow managed to stay up and pull away before completing the pass,'' Carter recalled while in town for Drive4Dinger, which raises money for the Mike Heimerdinger Foundation.
"It is a fond memory because we won the game. But at the time, I look back on that … The vision of him escaping was telltale of the entire game. I chased him around and got more turf burns and lost more skin chasing him around that day than I can put into words. It is a bittersweet fond memory of him, and a great time in our lives."
McNair died on July 4, 2009.
His performance in the spotlight in Super Bowl XXXIV made a lasting impression on the nation. The game ended when Titans receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled at the one-yard line on the final play of Tennessee's 23-16 loss to the Rams.
An NFL columnist recently detailed the top 50 moments in Super Bowl history, and McNair's "Great Escape" in the final seconds of the team's desperate comeback effort made No.32 on the list.
McNair's escape happened on a third-and-5 from the Rams' 27-yard line with just 22 seconds left in the game. On the play, McNair went on a wild scramble and somehow managed to escape the grasp of Carter and Williams to keep the play alive. McNair then fired a first-down pass to Dyson to put the Titans in a position to even the score.
Carter, who ended up being teammates with McNair in Tennessee from 2001-04 after spending his first six seasons with the Rams, said he thinks of McNair fondly.
"He is by far the toughest competitor I ever played against, the toughest quarterback ever to try and bring down,'' Carter said. "He was a consummate leader. I took it as a personal challenge when I came here to play because I had to measure up to what I admired so much about this organization, and it's No.9.
"Back in those days, there was none better under center in the league in my opinion."
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)