Three-time Pro Bowler Frank Wycheck, the former Maryland star who threw the lateral that started the “Music City Miracle” launching the Tennessee Titans’ run to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance, has died. He was 52.
Wycheck died at his Chattanooga, Tennessee, home after an apparent fall on which he hit his head Saturday morning, according to a statement from his family released through the Legacy consulting firm. His family said Sunday “with great sadness” that Wycheck was found Saturday afternoon.
His family will follow Wycheck’s wishes to work with experts for CTE research and ongoing brain injury. Funeral services have not been scheduled.
“The Wycheck family appreciates the love and support they’ve received, but asks the public to please respect their privacy during this difficult time,” the family said in the statement.
Wycheck’s 134 receptions at Maryland are a record for a tight end and rank seventh overall in school history. He made the All-Atlantic Conference second team in 1991. As a freshman in 1990, he caught 14 passes in a game against Virginia Tech. He finished his career with 1,183 receiving yards.
Wycheck retired after his 11th NFL season. He got two concussions in the span of a month in 2003, missed six games, then finished the season with an AFC divisional loss in New England. He decided to retire despite still being under contract and wanting a Super Bowl ring.
“The physical stuff you can’t hide from,” Wycheck told The Associated Press in 2014. “If you have lingering effects and you go back into a game, from all my reading and studying on it ... it could prove to be fatal.”
The “Music City Miracle” came with 16 seconds left in an AFC wild-card game Jan. 8, 2000. That TD return ranked fourth among the NFL’s greatest plays when the league celebrated its first 100 years in 2019.
Lorenzo Neal caught a kickoff and handed off to Wycheck, and he threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who sped 75 yards for the winning touchdown in the final seconds of a stunning 22-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo fans still insist the throw was a forward pass. Wycheck told The Associated Press in 2019 he never had a doubt his pass was a lateral.
“Just flick it back,” Wycheck said. “That’s just the way I kind of jumped and threw it. And then I fell backward, and that was like the illusion of it.”
Tennessee then won on the road in Indianapolis and beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville in the AFC championship game. The Titans came up short on the final play in losing Super Bowl 34 to the St. Louis Rams in Atlanta.
Wycheck started his pro career in 1993 with Washington as a sixth-round pick. He was picked up off waivers by the then-Houston Oilers in 1995 and finished his career with the franchise that relocated to Tennessee in 1997.
He finished his career with 505 receptions, 5,126 yards and 28 touchdowns over 155 games. At that time, he trailed only Shannon Sharpe (815), Ozzie Newsome (662) and Kellen Winslow (541) for most catches among tight ends.
Wycheck played 137 games for the Titans and set a team record with at least one reception in 99 consecutive games. He also led the franchise in receiving for three straight seasons from 1999 to 2001.
The lateral for the “Music City Miracle” wasn’t his only throw. Wycheck was 5-for-6 for 148 yards and two TDs in his career, posting a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Wycheck moved to Chattanooga this summer to be closer to his family. He leaves behind two adult daughters and three grandchildren.