Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Frank Wycheck, a Philadelphia native who threw the lateral that started the “Music City Miracle” and launched the Tennessee Titans’ run to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance, has died. He was 52.

Wycheck died at his Chattanooga home after an apparent fall where 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 be following Wycheck’s wishes to work with experts for CTE research and on-going brain injury (TBI). Funeral services have not been scheduled yet.

“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 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 comeback victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo fans still insist the throw was a forward pass. Wycheck told the AP 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 then-St. Louis Rams in Atlanta.

Wycheck played 11 NFL seasons, starting in 1993 with Washington as a sixth-round pick out of Maryland. He was picked up by the then-Houston Oilers in 1995 and finished his career with the franchise that relocated to Tennessee in 1997.

Before his time at Maryland, Wycheck played high school football at Archbishop Ryan in Northeast Philadelphia. 

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 between 1999 and 2001. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2013.

The lateral for the “Music City Miracle” wasn’t his only throw. Wycheck was 5 of 6 for 148 yards and two TDs in his career, posting a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said the organization was devastated to hear of Wycheck’s death, a man loved by many whose memory will be cherished. She noted he was always open making key plays and “even part of a Miracle.”

“Frank’s name was synonymous with Titans football,” Strunk said in a statement. “He was such a huge part of our team’s success both on and off the field. He embraced this community and fan base immediately, and everyone loved him right back.”

Wycheck worked in Nashville sports talk radio after he stopped playing. He also did color commentary for Titans Radio through the 2016 season. He moved back home to Philly, then relocated to Chattanooga this summer to be near his family. He leaves behind two adult daughters and three grandchildren.

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