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Steve McNair, a legend and a lesson

 
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Steve McNair

After seeing the funeral broadcast last night, I can finally have some closure. After 16 years of idolizing this quarterback, his life has come to a tragic and bizarre end. Being in the land of Titan fans, I have to really convince people that Air McNair may mean a lot to Nashville, but they forget he’s from my beloved home state of Mississippi.

Long before Steve McNair played for the Tennessee Titans, he was the quarterback at Alcorn State setting NCAA records, putting the state of Mississippi on TV, and being one of the few football players I would absolutely adore. I still remember him watching work absolute magic in front of nearly 68,000 fans in Jackson in the Capital City Classic in 1993. I still remember him being absolutely ROBBED of the Heisman in 1994 by the “superstar” Rashaan Salaam. Steve McNair was rare. He was the last of the great legendary SWAC players before the big business of blue chip recruiting. I guess that’s what made him stand out so much. Like most of the Magnolia State gridiron stars from small towns, Steve McNair was among the most exciting players to ever watch play the game. I sometimes think as I pass by his tiny hometown on Hwy 49 that instead of being at Mount Olive High School in Mississippi, what could have been if he could have gone to nearby Mendenhall, Collins, or even Hattiesburg? Maybe McNair then goes to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, LSU or another big BCS school just due to his exposure in high school. But I don’t know if that would make the story as fun.

I think in alot of ways Steve McNair was the NFL’s version of Mickey Mantle. Always injured, he would always play recklessly enough to win even if it meant his own body being destroyed in the process. I can’t help but think of the many times he scrambled behind a lackluster offensive line at Alcorn and even for the Oilers so determined to win the game. He had to, he didn’t know how to quit. Of course I’ll never forget his gutsy performance in Super Bowl 34. I still remember where I was and who I was watching that game with like it was yesterday. You sometimes forget that the Rams won the game just due to the magic McNair made on the field that night. He was just that kind of player. I’ll never forget the look on his face walking off the field after losing the following season to the Ravens in the playoffs. I’ll also never forget the image that is tattooed in our minds of him smiling with the MVP trophy in 2003. It was truly the look of a man who had been through the tough times, but had reached the summit.

I was glad to see the emphasis of the charity work McNair did in Mississippi and Nashville in the funeral service. You never saw Steve McNair on the camera or the Steve McNair foundation on TV, but you always heard about the thousands of people he helped. I thought it was appropriate that Don Weatherell, a former college professor of mine, who spoke at the service often spoke of how McNair wouldn’t tell his agency or the media where he was going just because he wanted the people he helped to get what they needed, but didn’t want them to be made a spectacle of. It wasn’t covered, but NO OTHER CELEBRITY did more for Hurricane Katrina relief than Steve McNair. Coach Jeff Fisher also hit the nail on the head by saying that Steve McNair wasn’t just a hero, he was a friend…….to everyone.

However, I can’t leave this without shedding SOME light on the negative aspect of all of this. Obviously, I was not in the inner circle of McNair, nor do I know exactly what was going on with the murderer, nor do I know the extent of his relationship with her. I think the unfortunate and horrible tragedy can be a lesson to everyone. How are his children and wife feeling tonight? What are they thinking about the side of their daddy/husband they never knew? What about his two previous children that live in Mississippi? Will they ever have a positive image of daddy? Yes, Steve McNair obviously made a terrible mistake that wound up costing him his life. However, a misstep in the decision process doesn’t warrant his death, or the complete humiliation of his widow and sons. Those of you who have ever been around me know that I like to tell the children in my summer camp that their decisions do not just affect them, but they affect EVERYONE. Sadly and tragically for all of us, Steve McNair’s bad decision has not only taken away one of my heroes, but one of the guys who made you proud to be a Mississippian.

However, from what I know about Steve McNair, and similar to what Jeff Fisher said at his press conference this week, Steve McNair would want all of us to learn from this and would want all of us to cherish those people we know we can trust. I always really admired how he would use his off the field mistakes as a learning experience for his fans and would take full responsibility for his actions rather than making excuses, so I think he would want the same thing in this.

As I continually travel down my own mental “memory lane”, I finally have closure, I’ve accepted what’s happened and what we can learn from it.

Goodbye, Air McNair, thanks for being a legend, and thanks for teaching us all a lesson.

Truly a legend

SI-Steve-MCNAIR-Acorn

The Air McNair I remember before the NFL


About Greg Pigott

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