By Adam Lawson, WSOE Sports
On Independence Day, Steve “Air” McNair was fatally shot in a condominium, ending his life at the tender age of 36. The circumstances, when all are revealed, will not paint McNair as the man of year he was once nominated for in the NFL. His 20-year-old girlfriend that he had been dating for two months will not make him look good in the public eye, considering he had a wife and four children. But, if Michael Jackson can be remembered for his moonwalk and not his fetish for children, then this is how I will remember McNair.
McNair grew up broke in Mount Olive, Mississippi. He sung in the church choir, and possessed extreme athletic talent. He was drafted to play baseball, but his love of football took him to historically-black Alcorn State, where he flourished. He was third in Heisman voting in 1995, and was taken third in that year’s draft by the Houston Oilers. Now, I was too young to remember all of that, but that background leads to where he will be remembered most.
He was best-known for his time with the Tennessee Titans, after the Oilers had relocated there. Along with Eddie George, McNair had one of the most-feared air-ground combos in NFL history. But, all that aside, his shining moment came in the 1999 playoffs. First up, he was the quarterback in the “Music City Miracle” game against the Buffalo Bills, where the Titans miraculously managed to turn a kickoff into a game-winning touchdown via a series of unpredictable laterals. I still remember watching that game downstairs and running outside in stunned amazement as I recounted the result to my neighbors. Later in those playoffs, McNair had advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV, the best Super Bowl that I have ever seen.
In a game that went back and forth all night long against “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the St. Louis Rams, McNair had one final drive to lead the Titans, who trailed by seven. McNair took over with 2:12 left, and executed a near-flawless drive. The last two plays of the drive were beyond belief. First, McNair managed to evade about three tacklers and complete a pass to the St. Louis 10 with 6 seconds left. Then, after evading tackler, McNair completed a pass to Kevin Dyson, but he came up a yard short, and the Rams were champions. A great game.
And a great memory of a great quarterback. This is the moment that will live on. Just like Thriller will be MJ’s big moment to his diehard fans, or the moonwalk, or whatever you want to call it. McNair will, and rightfully should, be remembered for his good years, the Titan years, and even the years with the Baltimore Ravens. Rest in peace, Steve. Football fans everywhere will miss you.