Texans Ambassador profile: Steve McKinney

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EDITOR'S NOTE: *This article first appeared in the Houston Texans Gameday magazine on Oct. 25, 2009, for Houston's showdown at home against the San Francisco 49ers. *

Steve McKinney, who played center and guard for the Texans from 2002-07, is in his first season as a Houston Texans Ambassador.

Steve McKinney was the first unrestricted free agent ever to sign with the Texans, joining the team in March 2002 from the Indianapolis Colts. A product of Clear Like High School in Houston and Texas A&M in nearby College Station, he was a natural fit with the expansion franchise.

McKinney, who had started 60 games in four seasons with the Colts, provided veteran leadership to the Texans' offensive line. He was the team's starting center in the inaugural 2002 season and went on to play in each of the Texans' first 83 games.

He also endeared himself to fans with his affable, distinctly Texan personality off the field, often discussing his love for hunting, fishing and country music.

Now retired, McKinney comes to Reliant Stadium to watch games as a fan and a member of the Houston Texans Ambassadors.

"It's very relaxing, actually," McKinney said. "It's nice to go as a spectator, not have to worry about pushing around 350-pound guys for three hours. I get to sit back in the bleachers and eat nachos and drink Diet Coke while they're out there sweating. I'd always wondered what that'd be like, but it's been fun."

The Texans Ambassadors are a group of former NFL players who live in the Houston area and represent the team at Texans games and in the community. When McKinney was approached by the team about becoming an Ambassador, he was happy to get involved.

"I see myself as a Texan," he said. "I love the organization. Being a Houston guy, I wanted to be able to support the team and be able to give back to the community."

McKinney played with many of the Texans' current players and coaching staff, having been with the team through the end of the 2007 season. In the third game that year, McKinney tore his ACL against the Colts and subsequently was placed on injured reserve. The following offseason, he and the Texans parted ways.

{QUOTE}The Miami Dolphins signed McKinney for training camp in 2008, but he didn't make the active roster. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks for the final month of the 2008 season, then decided to hang up his cleats for good in 2009. All told, McKinney played in 144 games with 133 starts in his 11-year NFL career.

"For myself, when I was done with football, I pretty much just kind of walked away from it," he said. "I didn't have any regrets, didn't feel that burning desire to be up there all the time. So this has been good for me to be able to reconnect with the fans. And to see the staff and a lot of the coaches with the Texans and some of the players, I've enjoyed it."

McKinney hasn't been out of football for long, but the newest chapter in his life already has been action-packed. He hosts a radio show, Outdoors XL with Steve McKinney on The Ticket 97.5 FM, every Saturday morning from 7-9 a.m. He has pursued other broadcasting ventures as well, including calling the East-West Shrine game with SportsRadio 610 AM's Marc Vandermeer in January.

Lately, McKinney's focus has shifted to business. He runs a hunting and game ranch called McKinney Whitetails in Marquez, Texas. He also is in training to become an owner/operator for a McDonald's franchise.

McKinney says that he always has wanted to be involved in the quick-serve industry. McDonald's, the world's largest fast food chain, was the first company he called and interviewed with.

"Luckily, it's working out pretty well," he said. "I can't wait to get my own restaurant."

The training can last anywhere from one to two years, McKinney said.

"McDonald's probably has one of the most extensive training programs of any company in the world," he said. "You go through an enormous amount of training, from the very bottom all the way to the top. You learn how to do every crew position, how to run shifts in the restaurant, the numbers, the food, the inventory. There's just so much to learn and so many moving parts of the business to be focused on."

In a couple of months, McKinney will resume another important role – coaching the third- and fifth-grade basketball teams of his two daughters. This will be his second season as their coach.

"I'm becoming a seasoned veteran coach now," he said. "I try to make it fun for them, so they don't take it too seriously. But you get very passionate when you're coaching your own kids. Heated exchanges do take place between the coach and the referee, even at that level. You can't help but get emotionally excited during the games.

"But I try to keep everything in perspective. I know they're just out there to have fun, and I want them to have fun, too."

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