Steve McNair was the exception. He lived up to the hype. So often we’ve seen athletes come from small schools in small divisions, and they always face the same question. Can they be successful at the professional level against the best competition in the world? I wasn’t around (or at least cognisant) for Jerry Rice’s collegiate career at Mississippi Valley State. Terrell Owens was nobody before the NFL. The fact is, I can’t think of any other NFL player off the top of my head who was a household name DURING their time at a small school as well as their time in the pros.
Steve McNair put Alcorn State on the map. I had never heard of it before him, and haven’t heard of it since. If Alcorn State is mentioned, most people associate it with McNair. Come to think of it, they should rename it McNair University. I’m writing the board of trustees after this.
He finished third in the Heisman voting his senior season, behind Rashaan Salaam and Ki-Jana Carter. Without looking up the stats, I think it’s safe to assume McNair ended up with more rushing yards than those two combined. He also might be the only black quarterback who wasn’t ever labeled by the media as a scrambler. He had a cannon arm so you couldn’t make the mistake.
What I’ll remember McNair most for is his class and passion for the game. You never saw him screaming at teammates or taunting opposing players. He just went out and played the game the right way. He was quiet, and he let his game speak for him. Not only was he a thrill to watch, he was easy to root for. Without realizing it, I became a part-time Oilers fan right around the time he came into the league. It’s no coincidence that the Titans soon became my favorite football team that doesn’t play in either of the two most decrepit stadiums i.e. the Raiders and 49ers. After he left, I wondered who I actually even liked on the Titans. Was Lendale White really my favorite player on that team?
Anyway, McNair always shed a positive light about him. Even when he got in trouble, he never came across as a troublemaker. I vaguely remember him on trial, but do I remember what for? No way. I also remember him getting banned from the Titans workout facility. Do I know why? Not even. That’s what’s so great about him. Even when he caused trouble, he wasn’t causing any at all.
Steve McNair might be my favorite player that I never knew I loved.