July 4th is a day of celebrating, honoring our country’s independence through parades, family BBQs and of course fireworks (professionally managed fireworks, of course).
But today is also a day of remembrance for football fans as it was the day that we lost a legend of the gridiron- Steve McNair.
“Air” McNair was an original. Born and raised in Mississippi, McNair was All State in football and was named a Super Prep Magazine All American. He was recruited by the Florida Gators and given a scholarship to play running back, but McNair wanted to play quarterback so decided to play at Div 1-AA HBCU school Alcorn State of the SWAC, and that’s when the legend began.
McNair dominated on the college level. In his sophomore year he threw for 3,541 yards and 29 touchdowns while also rushing for 10 TDs. His junior year he threw for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and was named First-Team All-SWAC for the third year in a row.
But it was his senior season that blew the doors off, earning him national recognition and magazine covers.
That year he amassed almost 6,000 passing/rushing yards combined and had 53 touchdowns. He was named an All-American and finished third in the Heisman voting behind Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam and Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter. He also won the Walter Payton Award (given to the top player in 1-AA, now the Football Championship Subdivision) that year and for his career he set records which still stand today: 14,496 yards passing and 16,283 career yards (both FCS records).
McNair was drafted by the then Houston Oilers with the third pick in 1995, becoming the highest drafted African-American QB in NFL history at the time. Two years later, when the team moved to Tennessee, McNair was named as the starting QB. In 1999, when the team officially became the Tennessee Titans, McNair returned to the starting role after missing five games due to an inflamed disc, and helped the team finish with a 13-3 record. The Titans would go on to win the AFC crown, which included a victory in the “Music City Miracle” over the Bills, and moved on to face the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, which they lost on the last play of the game when Kevin Dyson came up inches short of the goal line on the last play of the game.
McNair would play 13 seasons in the NFL, throwing for over 31,000 yards and 174 TDs. He was known for his toughness and for being a dual threat with both his arm and legs, and he was always the one to watch when he had the ball in his hands.
On July 4th, 2009, McNair was the victim in a murder suicide committed by Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi, the 20 year old woman that McNair was having a affair with.
Steve “Air” McNair was a football legend who will never be forgotten, and on Independence Day, we honor his memory.