My family came in this weekend and we got to spend a good bit of time together doing things in and around Nashville. Because we were enjoying the day with my three year old niece, I didn’t get to listed to much outside of kids music and if I got to watch TV it was typically Dora the Explorer or Clifford the Big Red Dog. On Saturday we headed down to LP field to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the east bank of the river. We were sitting outside of gate #9 when the family next to us turned on their radio to get the latest on the weather. The first thing that we hear was local sportscaster George Plaster’s voice declaring that Steve McNair had been killed.
Everyone within earshot was shocked and the word spread through the crowd quickly. Some people walked around to the north side of the stadium to look at his picture. The mood of the crowd quickly changed to match the darkening skies and rapidly deteriorating weather. I know that I felt like I had just taken a shot to the gut and still feel a little down about the whole situation. Tributes to “Air” McNair have sprung up all over Nashville and one the unpleasantness is resolved I hope we have the sense to celebrate his career by retiring his number (I know he is in the Ring of Honor, but I don't think that's the same thing).
Steve McNair was a hell of an athlete and a great man off the field. I always liked him because of his toughness, kindness, and giving spirit. I also held him in particular favor because he was from Mississippi. Here are a few things I will always remember about Steve McNair
1. His toughness: Steve McNair was a warrior. He constantly played, with injuries. I remember on stretch of games in particular where he had a bruised sternum. The pain was so intense that he wasn’t able to practice, but on game days he would suck it up and lead the team down the field.
2. Mississippi Pride: Many athletes from Mississippi, especially black athletes, forget about their roots when they finally make it big. In my opinion, Jerry Rice and Walter Payton didn’t give much back to their home state. This is probably partially because the racial environment was different back then. Steve McNair, along with Brett Favre and Deuce McAllister were a new breed of athletes that gave back to Mississippi and tried to make it a better place for everyone. Steve McNair always remained humble and never forgot where he came from.
3. Giving Back to the Community: Steve always did everything he could for kids and the underprivledged through the Steve McNair Foundation. He held free football camps for kids in both Nashville and in Mississippi and was heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Club. I’ll never forget him sending several tractor trailers full of food, water, and clothing down to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. What was amazing was that Steve just didn’t loan his name to the cause. He was actually out there loading tractor trailers and thanking people who were making donations.
4. Athletic Ability: Growing up I head about the ledgend that was Steve McNair. He played his high school ball at Mount Olive. At the age of 16, Steve led the school to a state championship, playing every down, playing the positions of quarterback, defensive back, punter, kicker, and return specialist. Later, before heading off to college I remember him breaking almost every NCAA offensive record at Alcorn State. While in college I drove to Memphis to watch the then Tennessee Oilers play the Baltimore Ravens in what was, for a time, the lowest attended game in NFL history. McNair has just taken the QB position over from Chris Chandler and Mississippians were driving in from everywhere to watch him play. He was probably one of the most prolific players the Titans has ever seen setting several records and getting the team within 1 yard of a Superbowl win.
There are many other things that I will always remember about Steve. Nashville and Mississippi have lost one of the “good ones.”
You will be missed #9.