I figured that all of us in Steeler Nation could use something to laugh and smile at before we all watch the titanic matchup between the Steelers and the Ravens tomorrow night. I earnestly hope that you the readers enjoy my tribute to arguably the most important non-Steeler to ever play in the N.F.L.. Hit the “Continue Reading” button if I’ve peaked your interest:
Over 7 years have passed since that sunny afternoon in the Charm City where your Ravens laid a beat down on our beloved Steelers. All day long your team’s vaunted Defense pressured and harassed the Steeler Offense. Furthermore, your buddy Jamal Lewis took a break from setting up cocaine deals to run roughshod over the Steeler Defense. Like so many games the Steelers had played in Baltimore up till that point, they were getting completely dominated on both sides of the ball. Yet on this glorious and fateful day, you Gary Baxter, you magnificent bastard not only tipped the scales of the rivalry in the Steelers’ direction, but also changed the N.F.L. in the blink of an eye.
It was the 3rd Quarter and your team smelled blood in the water and wanted a big turnover to put the final nail in the coffin. Like so many blitz packages concocted by your foot-loving Defensive Coordinator at the time, you as a DB were sent to attack the QB and “sweep the proverbial leg.” Being that Tommy Maddox had the elusiveness and pocket-presence of an 80 year old woman and wasn’t prepared for your blitz, he panicked and tried unsuccessfully to get the ball off.
You were locked in at that moment and totally hit Maddox on his arm as he was trying to throw on a fantastic and textbook swat that jarred the ball loose from Tommy and caused a fumble. To make the play even better for you and your squad, one of your teammates picked up the loose ball and almost took it in for a TD!
For the exclamation point on top of your wonderful effort Mr. Baxter, Maddox went down with an elbow injury and it appeared to be some serious ligament damage that was supposed to sideline him for another 6 Weeks! On one play you yourself knocked out your rivals’ most important player at their most important position. Moreover, the Steelers would be forced to finish the game if not the entire season with a Rookie QB from Miami (Ohio)!
Your team was already cruising at that point and was coasting to an easy victory. Your hit should have demoralized the Steelers into thinking that their season was lost. However, as the game wore on, we in Steeler Nation could see glimpses of what this Rookie replacement had in his bag of tricks. Despite making a couple of Rookie mistakes including throwing 2 INT’s, the youngster surprised all of us by throwing 2 TD’s through the air as well and made the final score a somewhat respectable 30-13.
Sure we in Steeler Nation were stoked to see some fresh and talented blood at the QB position for once. However, I don’t think any of us were quite prepared to see the ridiculous amount of success that this Rookie would end up having over the rest of the 2004 season and the next 6+ seasons of his career. 2 Super Bowl wins in 3 appearances, 1 Pro Bowl, 4 Division Titles, 5 playoff appearances, and knocking your former team out of the playoffs twice!
That Rookie that you gave a chance to with your hustle and fateful hit has built a Hall of Fame career in part because of you good sir. In fact, your hit essentially denied Maddox his chance to ever be a full-time starter in the N.F.L. again.
I know that you played out the rest of your career in anonymity Mr. Baxter, and like many former N.F.L. Players, that’s the way it goes. Yet on behalf of Steeler Nation, I would like to extend warm thanks to you for literally fixing the Steelers’ QB problem. A problem I must add which had basically been under construction since Terry Bradshaw retired following the 1983 season.
The least I could do is send you an edible arrangement, yet I don’t have your address Gary. Steeler Nation will never forget what you did Mr. Baxter and we all owe you a debt of gratitude. I hope you enjoyed the Kyle Boller era while it lasted.
(P.S.: Do you and Mo Lewis argue all the time about whose hit was more important?)