For a good six-year stretch, there wasn’t a more popular player in the National Football League than Steve McNair. The Alcorn State product practically helped launch ESPN 2, who would pick up his amazing performances at the small college where he lit up scoreboards at a record clip.
The third overall pick in the 1995 of the then Houston Oilers, McNair quickly became the face of a franchise in transition. Once the Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, McNair’s legendary status moved to Nashville with the franchise.
His .595 winning percentage is among the best in modern NFL history. To put that into perspective, McNair’s winning percentage is higher than the likes of Drew Brees and Eli Manning. He led the Oilers/Titans to six seasons with a .500 or better record and made four appearances in the playoffs. In reality, McNair was the most successful quarterback in franchise history since Warren Moon back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
McNair would then bolt to the Baltimore Ravens for a chance to obtain that elusive Super Bowl title. He led them to a 13-3 record in 2006, but ended up falling short of his ultimate goal by losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round.
One year later, McNair wrapped up his NFL career by starting just six games for Baltimore.
Less than two years after making his final appearance in a NFL uniform, McNair died tragically at the young age of 36.
On July 4, 2009, McNair was found dead by two of his closest friends. An apparent victim of a murder-suicide perpetrated by his mistress, 20-year old Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi, the young man saw his life end under almost surreal circumstances. Married at the time, McNair was having an affair with the young woman, who ended up killing him in a condo that he had rented in Nashville.
McNair left behind a wife and four children.
Even five years after the fact, his death still remains in the minds of those who were close to him and the two franchises that he played for. Always a star in the mind of Titans fans, McNair will never be forgotten.
On this Fourth of July, it’s important for the sports world to take a step back and remember a guy who left this planet far too early in life. McNair may have had his demons, but he remains the one man that made Tennessee Titan’ football viable shortly after they moved from Houston.
Photo: USA Today