After nearly a week of speculation it is now official.   Police have determined that former Tennessee Titans star, Steve McNair, was shot and killed in his sleep by his girlfriend, who then turned the gun on herself.  Murder-suicide.   Why did she kill McNair and herself?  The Nashville police chief said that an investigation into a possible motive suggests 20-year old Sahel Kazemi was distraught over her finances, and what she believed to be the possibility that McNair had another girlfriend. mcnair130

While police have essentially wrapped up their investigation of the murder-suicide, there will always be questions about McNair’s death that may never have answers.  Such as: Who was this young woman?   Why would McNair spend time with a woman 16 years his junior who was not his wife?  What would cause her to take his life and her own?  We will likely only be able to speculate about the reasons.

This is what we do know.  Steve McNair was one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.  He often played in tremendous pain.  But he nonetheless played with intelligence and savvy.  He was the most respected player on his team.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and in 2003 was the league’s Most Valuable Player.  McNair retired from football last year after 13 seasons, when his body could no longer take the wear and tear.

We also know McNair had a wife and four children.   Many believe had he not had the girlfriend he would still be alive today.   While we will never know for sure if that is true, the details of his death surely paint a much darker picture of a man many of us respected and some of us revered.   I choose not to make any moral judgments about McNair’s choices.   Steve was a human being.  He made mistakes like all of us.

Still, McNair’s death, even a week later, doesn’t make sense to me. It may never make sense.   Why do I care?  I care because I followed his career for many years.  I was a fan.

Years ago when I was still working at the TV station, I recall my co-worker, Gus Johnson, now a CBS Sports announcer, telling me about this “kid from Alcorn State.”   Gus said, “Dave, you got to see this guy play quarterback.”   When Gus got excited like that, I usually paid attention.   From that point on I watched McNair with great interest.

Just as Gus predicted, McNair went on to set all sorts of passing records at Alcorn State – thus earning the nickname “Air McNair”.  McNair would eventually finish third in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior season and he became the third player picked in the 1995 NFL draft.

Steve McNair was easily one of my favorite players.   McNair helped foster a father/son Madden Football rivalry, as I would always play as Steve McNair and the Titans against my son and his favorite team the Ravens.  David Jr. would usually win as most kids do playing video games against their dads, but it was a fun time.   That’s one way that I remember Steve McNair.   It is also one way that I remember my son growing up.

Steve McNair never passed for lots of yards at Tennessee, because the Titans were a conservative, run-first team.  Still, he threw for 31 thousand yards and more than 170 touchdowns.  But McNair was an exceptional leader on the field and would run effectively when he had to.  McNair scored 37 touchdowns rushing and ran for more than 3500 yards during his career.

What I will remember most about McNair was his modesty, his quiet leadership and his courage.  I knew nothing else about him.

I was not a friend of Steve McNair’s but I was a fan.  Death by murder-suicide is not the way I want to remember McNair.  But tragically that will now accompany my memory of him.  It doesn’t seem fair.

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  1. […] Memorial services will be held for Steve McNair in Nashville today. How will you remember him? 2009-07-09 14:21:48 · Reply · View benmaller: Steve McNair filmed suicide […]

  2. Suzan Falkner says:

    This article is well written based on the dark cloud that overshadowed a promising career. Questions will ultimately be left unanswered, especially those that concern the breakdown of the family by sport celebrities. Thanks for accentuating the positives in his career.

  3. KS Burnett says:

    Nice commentary.

  4. JayThrntn says:

    I agree with you completely..Although he wasn’t one of my favorites he’s always been repsected for his modest and polite personality..He will definitly be missed my heart goes out to his friends and family..god bless