Steve McNair is one of my favorite NFL quarterbacks ever. Known as “Air McNair” during his college days at Alcorn State, he set (and still holds) FCS records for total offense in a career (16,823 yards), as well as the single-season record (5,799 yards of total offense). McNair surpassed 600 yards of offense in a game FIVE times during his college football days. You guessed it. That’s also a record. He still owns about two dozen records at the FCS level today.
When he took over as the Tennessee Oilers starter — there was a weird, two-year window between the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans — during the 1997 NFL season, McNair racked up 3,339 yards of total offense, including the third-most rushing yards by a QB in one season (674; now ranks 13th). The next year, McNair eclipsed 3,000 passing yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry.
McNair was way beyond his time. The third overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft ultimately became the NFL’s Co-MVP in 2003, when his 100.4 quarterback rating led pro football. Between 1999 and 2003, the Titans tied the St. Louis Rams — the team that beat them in Super Bowl XXXIV — for the best record in the NFL (56-24).
That’s why when Steve McNair was shot and killed on July 4, 2009 by 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, it felt like an American hero of mine was gone.
How Did Steve McNair Die?
According to police, “Jenni” Kazemi, McNair’s girlfriend at the time, became jealous and suspicious that McNair, who was still married to Mechelle McNair, was having another affair with a different woman. Text messages revealed Kazemi was under financial stress and “was spinning out of control.”
McNair was believed to be asleep on the couch of a Nashville condo he rented when Kazemi shot him four times at close range in 2009. She then “tried to stage it so she would fall in his lap” and shot herself in the head. The Nashville Police Department ruled it a murder-suicide with Kazemi as the perpetrator. The two were found dead by McNair’s friends, Wayne Neeley and Robert Gaddy.
Gaddy later said what he saw would haunt him every day for the rest of his life.
Steve McNair was 36 years old.
A two-day memorial was held at LP Field in Tennessee, where McNair brought so much joy and happiness to Titans fans.
On September 15, 2019, the Tennessee Titans will retire McNair’s No. 9 jersey, alongside long-time teammate, friend and running back Eddie George’s No. 27.
Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair’s death still doesn’t feel real. One minute, the three-time Pro Bowl selection is remembered for racking up over 35,000 total yards and accounting for 211 total touchdowns leading the Titans and Baltimore Ravens. The next, he’s gone, remembered for a horrific scene and his untimely death.
Every loss of life is terrible, but realizing it’s been 10 years since one of my favorite players of all time was killed is truly humbling. I remember a winner. I remember a gritty competitor who left everything he had on the field. I’ll always remember Steve McNair, not because of how he died, but because of how he lived.