Mt. Olive, Mississippi, became a football recruiting hotspot the fall of 1990. Mt. Olive had a future star on its roster: Steve McNair. McNair was recruited heavily all over the Southeast by every major college program as a defensive back or even a running back, but he considered himself a quarterback and he would not compromise. That essentially narrowed his choice to Alcorn State, where he was promised that he would be a signal caller.
While at Alcorn, he threw for 14,496 yards and 119 touchdowns and rushed for 2,327 yards and 33 scores. During his collegiate career, McNair received numerous honors including the Eddie Robinson Trophy and the Walter Payton Award. Even though Alcorn State was a Division I-AA school, “Air” McNair finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy balloting.
Drafted third overall by the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1995, McNair became the Oilers’ regular starting quarterback in 1997, their first season in Tennessee, and remained the starting quarterback for the Titans through 2005. He was the first African-American quarterback to be chosen as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Steve led the Titans to the playoffs four times and played in Super Bowl XXXIV. He is the Titans’ all-time leading passer, a three time Pro Bowl selection, an Ed Block Courage Award recipient and was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, All-Pro and Co-MVP in 2003. Most recently, he was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame, Black College Football Hall of Fame, and also the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
But the real story of his playing career was not told by the stats. Leadership and toughness were the areas where Steve has made his reputation. In pressure situations, he was cool and confident. During his NFL career, there were times his body was so badly battered that he simply couldn’t practice. Still, he gutted it out every Sunday. His willingness to play with pain was a constant source of inspiration to his teammates. In turn, there was nothing they wouldn’t do for him.
No pain, no gain; if that’s the case, McNair was light years ahead of the rest of the NFL. Each Sunday seemed to bring a new challenge, as well as a great story about how he overcame it. When Steve broke into pro football, all his teammates could talk about was his jaw-dropping athletic talent. Soon, they couldn’t stop raving about his superhuman toughness. When Steve retired, the game lost more than a great player: It lost one of its most inspiring and generous people.
While Steve’s on the field achievements were a source of immense joy and pride for him, his wife, Mechelle, along with his four sons – Tyler, Trenton, Steven, Jr. and Steven – were his ultimate accomplishment.