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 (at the time) the third-most rushing yards by a QB in one season. 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).
Only Brett Favre (97) and Peyton Manning (92) won more games as a starting quarterback between 1997 and 2006 than McNair (85) did.
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 was gone.
Steve McNair’s Death
According to police, Sahel “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 condominium 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 Metro 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.
Steve McNair’s Funeral
Some 5,000 people paid their respects at McNair’s funeral service in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
NFL figures such as Brett Favre, Ray Lewis, Jay Cutler, Jeff Fisher and Doug Williams, who became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, gathered inside the University of Southern Mississippi’s Reed Green Coliseum.
So did Vince Young, who spoke about his friend and mentor.
“Steve was like a hero to me, and heroes are not supposed to die,” Young said during the service, via ESPN.
McNair’s family, especially his mother Lucille McNair, was emotionally distraught.
Steve McNair’s Wife & Children Now
McNair is survived by his four children. He and Mechelle shared two sons — Trenton and Tyler (pictured above) — and he had two other sons — Steve McNair Jr. and Steven McNair — by two different women before his marriage.
Steve McNair Jr. was still in high school when his dad died, starring on the gridiron at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg. He went on to commit to play wide receiver at Southern Miss before playing at Pearl River Community College.
Steven still resides in Mississippi. In 2019, he claimed he and Steve Jr. weren’t invited to their father’s Tennessee Titans jersey retirement (during which teammate Eddie George’s jersey was also retired) and went on to say they were “cut off” from their dad’s legacy. Mechelle denied that.
Tyler McNair was a 6-foot-4 basketball player who began pursuing a new passion: dance. He attended the NYU Tisch Department of Dance and is now a dancer, choreographer and model, according to his Instagram profile.
Lastly, Trenton McNair is currently dominating the high school basketball scene at Brentwood Academy. The 6-foot-4 guard is the last of Steve McNair’s kids continuing his legacy in sports, and he’ll graduate in 2022. He has offers to play in college at Columbia State, Covenant College and Trevecca Nazarene University.
What Happened to Steve McNair’s Estate?
Steve McNair made more than $75 million in the NFL, not including endorsements, meaning he left behind quite the fortune for his family. He had no will at the time of his death, though.
According to the Associated Press, his estate was initially valued a $19.6 million and the majority of his assets were frozen when he died. However, in 2010, Mechelle asked a judge to unfreeze a portion of that so each son could receive $500,000. The judge agreed.
It’s unclear what the estate’s status is more than a decade later.
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 more than 10 years since McNair 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.