Bob McNair loved the city of Houston, and he loved the NFL franchise he founded.
On Tuesday night at the Houston Sports Awards inside the Hilton Americas, he was honored with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition to 2020 Hall of Fame inductees Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis and Rudy Tomjanovich, many Texans of the past and present were on hand for the evening. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke on his behalf before handing the award to the McNair family.
"It's very special," Chairman and CEO Cal McNair said. "Dad loved the Texans. He loved bringing the team here. He loved Houston. So to have this honor is really, really special. I wish he was here to accept it, but I'm glad we're here, and it'll be cherished by all of our family."
In October of 1999, McNair was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise. He'd stepped up and put together the strongest bid to bring football back to Houston. Three autumns later, his Texans beat the Dallas Cowboys, 19-10, in the franchise's first regular season game. Jones was in the building that night, and despite the loss, was always fond of his friend and counterpart to the south.
"He meant everything to me," Jones said. "We're so fortunate—NFL, football, the Cowboys—to have Bob McNair choose to make that commitment that he made. And I'm not just talking about financial. I'm talking about commitment of stewardship, commitment of management, to build the Houston Texans. I said 'I wish we had a room full of his kind of owners in the NFL.' He was outstanding in every phase."
Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who was also honored on Tuesday with the 2020 Sportsmanship Award, was excited before the event to see what the McNair ceremony would entail.
"It's awesome," Mercilus said. "I wonder what the emotions are going to be like inside the room because of what he's meant to the city, and what he's brought to the city, too. It's going to be really, really special."
McNair and his wife, senior chair and co-founder Janice, contributed over $500 million to various charitable organizations over the last 60 years. They've left an indelible mark on the city and the country with their generosity. That's not lost on Jones, who joked he "would have walked here from Dallas" if needed, and said he was honored to be a part of the evening.
"The NFL has so benefitted from having Bob, his leadership, his financial logic, and he was real unique," Jones said. "He had the right mix of intangible with tangible."
In addition to McNair, the other Lifetime Achievement Award winners were the late President George H.W. and Barbara Bush in 2019, and former Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander in 2018.
In preparation for Mr. McNair's induction in the Houston Texans Ring of Honor, we take a trip down memory lane.