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McClain: A trip down Texans' memory lane to Bob McNair's original uniform reveal

John McClain, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, is in his 48th year of covering the NFL in Houston, including 45 seasons at the Houston Chronicle.

I've never met anyone more patriotic than Bob McNair, the Texans' founder who died in 2018. If Janice McNair had allowed it, her husband would have worn red, white and blue every day of the year. That's why there were never any questions about what the Texans' colors would be when they were disclosed on Sept. 6, 2000 at a downtown party attended by thousands of excited fans overjoyed to have the NFL return to Houston.

And I've never known anybody who was more Houston proud than McNair. He wanted an expansion franchise for Houston to replace the Oilers. He turned down opportunities to pursue other NFL teams that were being sold. As McNair used to say, "I'm a homer for Houston. I'm Houston proud and proud of it." There was nobody else pursuing a team for Houston other than McNair.

Watching the Texans prepare to unveil their new uniforms on Tuesday brought back so many memories involving McNair and his team's history. Before they played their first game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, I covered three monumental events in Texans' history – being awarded the 32nd franchise in 1999, the disclosure of the name, colors and logo in 2000 and the unveiling of the original uniforms in 2001. And I was privileged to go behind the scenes with McNair at the last two events.

Let's start with September of 2000. Texas Avenue was shut down to traffic to accommodate thousands of boisterous and rambunctious fans who descended on downtown to celebrate and show support for the team that would be replacing the Oilers. McNair spent the day making sure everything was just right. He was so proud but admittedly nervous. He was hosting NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as part of the festivities. He had to make sure political and business leaders got to participate in the celebration.

The event was so big it was televised by ESPN2 and had simultaneous unveilings in San Antonio and Austin. When the countdown ended and the name, colors and logo were revealed, fans erupted with a thunderous ovation that seemed to rock the skyscrapers. And sure enough, the Texans' colors were red, white and blue -- only McNair designated them as Battle Red, Liberty White and Deep Steel Blue.

I once asked McNair where he came up with Liberty White. He nodded toward his white Spanish Cocker Spaniel, Liberty. "Born on the fourth of July," he said.

After the big reveal, McNair was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and relax for a few minutes before going to Minute Maid Park – Enron Field at the time – to throw out the first pitch before an Astros' game. McNair threw a Texans football to Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr.

Now, fast forward a year to another downtown event – the unveiling of the Texans' uniforms on Sept. 25, 2001. Jamey Rootes, who began his career with the Texans as head of marketing before being promoted to president, had worked his staff 24/7 to help the NFL produce uniforms that utilized McNair's favorite colors but also symbolized the state's culture – the bull and the horns. McNair was euphoric at the reception the uniforms received that day from a crowd of more than 12,000.

"And they'll look even better when we're winning," McNair said with a laugh.

And, yes, uniforms always look better on a winner, and that's why Texans' fans are so excited about Tuesday. The team is coming off a 10-7 record, an AFC South title and a playoff victory. Janice, Hannah and Cal McNair are thrilled with their team and the prospects for next season. The only thing Cal McNair has to worry about is soreness from all the pats on the back he's going to receive.

If Bob McNair was still alive on Tuesday, he'd be thrilled, too. Even euphoric about his team, which could contend for its first Super Bowl. McNair was always the epitome of optimism. He'd have no doubt that the four new uniforms would be a huge success. He'd be complimentary and appreciative of all the hard work put in over the last two years by President Greg Grissom, Senior Vice President Doug Vosik and their staffs.

The Texans played 22 seasons with the uniforms McNair treasured, and he'd be honored if they play another 22 seasons with the new uniforms his family will unveil Tuesday.

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