Willis McGahee 's last play of the 2008 season left Ravens fans – and football fans in general – gasping in shock.
The running back was laid out on Pittsburgh's Heinz Field after a crushing blow from Steelers safety Ryan Clark in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship.
Carted off the field on a stretcher, tests at UMPC Presbyterian Hospital showed that McGahee suffered a concussion and was briefly knocked unconscious. But even though he admitted he was dealing with a sore neck in the days after the Ravens' 23-14 loss on Jan. 18, McGahee is on the road to a full recovery.
"I'm feeling good, better than before," McGahee said last week at the EA Sports Madden Bowl last week as part of the Super Bowl festivities in Tampa, Fla. "Things should work out fine for me."
As McGahee worked the room in the Ybor City club as last year's Madden Bowl champion, there were no signs of any tightness in his neck. Still, he will continue to monitor for lingering effects due to the concussion.
"The MRI and the CAT scan checked out good," he explained. "I was scared, but I didn't know how serious it was. It was pretty intense."
Intense is just one word that could describe the scene surrounding Clark's hit on McGahee.
In the decisive fourth quarter, McGahee sprinted out to the left flat and turned to haul in a short pass from quarterback Joe Flacco. As he pivoted to run upfield, Clark launched his helmet into McGahee's, and both players crumpled to the ground.
Clark, who also suffered a concussion, rose from the turf with the help of team trainers, while McGahee, whose head snapped back violently from the force of the shot, did not move for several minutes.
A capacity crowd of Terrible Towel-waving fanatics watched in silence as McGahee was secured to a stretcher and carted off the field.
"I blacked out, I woke up when they were taking my facemask off," McGahee said. "I opened my eyes and I was talking. The next thing I knew, I woke up in some room and they were taking me to the ambulance."
"They told me not to move, so I started to get a little worried," he continued. "After we got inside they took X-rays and told me everything was okay. Everything went numb when it happened. I knew something had happened because my arms and legs were numb."
The hit capped a promising night for McGahee, who had rushed for a game-high 60 yards and two touchdowns. He replaced regular starter Le'Ron McClain, who seemed to be hindered by a nagging ankle injury.
"I just wanted to make a difference in the football game," said McGahee. "This was my first AFC championship. We wanted to perform and win."
McGahee was back in the Ravens' locker room the following Monday and was ready to move on from the scare.
He also expressed no doubt that he wants to return to Baltimore for a third season even though his role in 2008 was diminished, only rushing for 671 yards on 170 carries following a 1,207-yard campaign the previous year.
"Like our coaches tell us, it's a business," McGahee said. "Some of us will be here; some of us won't. I can't control that. But if I am [back], I will be here and show my teammates what kind of person I am. They know what they're going to get from me."