Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys…

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April 11, 2002
Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys…
By Ric Sweeney

How I happened upon Steve McKinney’s mother’s email address is neither here nor there, point is — I had it, and I used it.

On the day her oldest of three sons signed a five-year, $15.5 million contract with the Texans, I emailed her and asked if she could possibly put us in touch with Steve. Sweet as can be, she said she would.

And yesterday, wouldn’t you know it — Steve emailed and said he’d love to do an interview with us.

Lou Ann McKinney raised her boys right.

Ric: Let’s start by giving you the chance to “introduce” yourself to the fans: what type of player did the Texans sign on March 5?

McKinney: I think the Texans got a great deal on March 5th. I know that I’ll earn every cent the Texans invested in me. That’s the kind of guy I am: a hard worker who’s very self-motivated.

I have a beautiful wife, Tiffany, and two precious little girls, Jordan and Grace, who have me wrapped around their little pinky. I’m basically just a family man who is lucky enough to get paid to do what I love.

Ric: How big a factor was your Texan heritage in deciding to sign with Houston?

McKinney: Having been born and raised in the great state of Texas definitely played a large part in my return to the Lone Star State. Ever since the NFL announced its return to Houston, I have geared my every move to returning also. Having attended high school in Houston (Clear Lake) only makes it that much sweeter.

Ric: What are your initial impressions of the Texans’ organization? And what was the buzz among NFL circles the past two years as they built their organization?

McKinney: I think the Texans have a great organization — an owner who is totally committed to winning, a GM who has won Super Bowls and a head coach who took an expansion team to the NFC Championship Game in their second year.

Those three ingredients spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the teams in our division. The buzz around town is unbelievable. This city is more fired up than I’ve ever seen. We haven’t even played a game and they already want to throw a parade for us. I think they are just really excited to have a team again. And so am I.

Ric: How’s practice going so far?

McKinney: Practice has gone really well the last two weeks. I think the guys are excited about being a part of this team, as are the coaches. We already are starting to gel as a team. I think over the next four months, we’ll become a force to be reckoned with.

Ric: Has the team talked at all about goals for the 2002 season? What would you consider a successful season in terms of wins and/or accomplishments?

McKinney: We don’t talk about wins or losses in terms of goals. We just want to go out every Sunday and be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win every ball game. If we can do that, we will surprise a lot of people, and maybe even ourselves.

Ric: Let’s talk about your move to center — what kind of adjustments will you have to make in your game? Do you have any experience playing center?

McKinney: I think moving to center will be a smooth transition for me. It’s pretty much like guard except you have to snap the ball and make more of the line calls. I definitely have the experience to do it, as well as the ability.

Ric: On paper, the Texans have the makings of a great offensive line. But games aren’t played on paper – explain to us what elements are needed to build a great line beyond just size and talent.

McKinney: As a line, we just have to line up and practice. Playing with, and beside, the other guys is what makes a line gel. Over time, we will become one of the better lines in football; it will only take us gelling as a unit.

Ric: We all know the Texans will use their first pick in this month’s draft on QB David Carr. You were a rookie in 1998 when Indianapolis selected Peyton Manning first overall. What was that like and how might your new teammates benefit from your experiences with a rookie QB?

McKinney: What I learned by playing with Peyton his rookie year is that no matter how talented they are, rookie QB’s are going to make mistakes. You just have to keep learning and keep practicing and you’ll be fine.

I think it will be important for David to not lose his confidence no matter how bad it gets. I think Peyton threw more INT’s than TD’s his rookie year, and look at what he’s done since.

Ric: Now it’s time for me to put on my Stone Phillips face and ask some hard-hitting questions: Obviously, the Colts’ defense struggled last year under new Texan defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. What are your impressions of him and what, in your opinion, went wrong with that unit?

McKinney: I think the Colts struggled on defense last year, mainly because of injuries and a lack of talent, not because of Vic. Their best DE, (Chad) Bratzke, played on a bad ankle all year and losing Mike Peterson hurt them badly. Vic has been successful everywhere he has coached; that’s why I believe it was not the system.

Ric: (Still wearing the Phillips mask) Imagine next year, you’re playing Indianapolis and new teammate Gary Walker beats your replacement and flattens Manning… what’s that gonna feel like? (I mean, for you, not Manning – I imagine from Manning’s perspective, it’s probably going to hurt.)

McKinney: Peyton and I are good friends, and I know he really wanted me back. However, when Gary does that, I will love it — as long as nobody gets hurt, of course.

Ric: OK, enough of the third degree… So, did you grow up an Oiler fan? If so, what are some of your favorite memories?

McKinney: Yes, I did grow up an Oiler fan. My greatest memories are watching the run and shoot offense march up and down the field every week. They were like a machine — I loved it.

I was too young to really remember the Earl Campbell days but I’ve seen enough highlights to know they were awesome to watch back then, too.

Ric: What’s the latest on brother Seth? Any chance he’ll soon be a teammate? By the way, your mom told us if not the Texans, she’d prefer the Cowboys draft Seth this month. What’s up with that? Does she not like Seth, or….? I mean, really, the Cowboys?!?!

McKinney: I thought she liked him, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t know what will happen with Seth, but what I do know is whoever picks him will be making a great decision; they can’t go wrong.

It would be great if he could end up here in Houston — trust me, I’m doing everything in my power to make it happen. Tony, our line coach, gets an earful everyday. The week before the draft, I think maybe I’ll take Bob McNair and Charley Casserly out for a nice expensive meal. How’s that sound?

Ric: Great! Can I go? Hello? Steve?

Many thanks to Steve for being so generous with his time. I sent him the questions and had responses back literally within the hour. Good luck to him and the team this year. I think I speak for a lot of Texan fans when I say we’re all really excited about him coming to Houston — he’s been a durable, extremely productive offensive lineman in the NFL.

And, of course, major thanks to Lou Ann McKinney for making this all possible. She has one son signing a deal that’s going to make them all rich, she’s got another son just weeks away from joining Steve in the NFL and a third son playing AAU basketball, yet she took time to help us out.

And since she’s computer savvy to boot, we invite her (and Steve — heck, the entire McKinney family) to be active participants in our new message forum!

Ric Sweeney will be spending this week patiently waiting by the phone for Steve to call and invite him to that expensive dinner with Bob McNair and Charley Casserly. Steve McKinney Steve McKinney Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Ric Catch up on past installments of Quick Slant