I heart Steve McNair. I still remember the first time I ever saw him play. It was one of those black college football games they used to show on Saturdays on BET and Alcorn State was playing Howard.
I remember it so clearly because he was so much better than everyone else on the field. They definitely called him Air McNair for a reason. And he had those fabulous untouched teeth that never needed the help of an orthodontist to go straight or be white. He showed them often because Alcorn was putting a whipping to my school. And now he’s dead.
On the heels of MJ, and Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, this seems to sting a little more than it should. Namely because of what he stood for to both students and athletes at HBCUs everywhere.
By now you’ve all heard the stories of how he chose to stay home and go to Alcorn rather than go to a bigger school and be converted out of his natural position (more on this another time-I can’t do ABW today), how he came in 3rd in Heisman voting despite playing at a I-AA school, how Houston drafted him and everyone thought they were crazy. The Music City Miracle, falling a foot short of glory in SB XXXIV. All of that.
You can count the number of players from HBCUs on two hands these days in the NFL-and outside of Doug Williams he is the only other QB from an HBCU to make it to a Super Bowl as a starter.
The thing about Steve McNair and his death is how all we heard about him were good things, and not in the “don’t speak ill of the dead” way. Player after player, press, coaches, even the team owner have had nothing but good to say about him. There hasn’t been any dragging through the mud like they’re doing to MJ, just person after person to praise him as a great player, and an even greater person. They all lament at the loss of a friend and teammate, who’s career was cut short by chronic injuries-even though he didn’t let them stop him from playing all out every Sunday.
As the details of the circumstances around his death come out, we are left again with the knowledge that no matter how many games we watch, or articles we read, or interviews we see, we can never really know what’s going on in a persons life. In this case what wasn’t known may very well be what killed him, and that’s beyond sad. People like him aren’t murdered. At least not without a plot and a script and Horatio Caine & Co. to solve it.
We live in some strange times, and the saying that only the good die young certainly comes to mind. He was one of the great ones, and now he’s gone.
What we do know-about his toughness, his ability to adapt himself, his charitable work, his willingness to help others and his tremendous play will have to suffice for now. His body of work is strong, and in spite of the circumstances of his death he will be sorely missed and revered by many.
For me, he’ll always be the guy from Alcorn State completing circus passes. The small town guy that made good on the biggest possible stage. A humanitarian who cared about the community he was adopted by, and the one he came from. All of that, and his perfect teeth-you couldn’t miss them, he was always smiling.
Rest in peace Air McNair.
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