A Human Highlight Reel
He was a four-sport star who excelled at football, basketball, baseball and track. He played both quarterback and defensive back on the football team. On the baseball diamond, he played shortstop and outfield good enough to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1991.
Playing as a DB, he intercepted 15 passes in 1990. As a result, all the so-called recruiting “experts” from LSU, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Mississippi State wanted him to play defensive back. Only Alcorn State recruited him as a quarterback.
His name was Steve McNair.
Rarefied “Air” in Lorman, Mississippi
As a freshman at Alcorn State in 1991, McNair threw for 2895 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 242 yards and six more scores. He was named SWAC Freshman of the Year and SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading the Braves to a 7–2–1 record.
In his sophomore year, he led the Braves to a SWAC title. McNair passed for 3541 yards and 29 TDs. He also added 516 yards rushing and 10 scores. Once again, he earned SWAC Offensive Player of the Year honors and 1st Team All-SWAC. McNair was also named Offensive Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
McNair started to receive some serious Heisman buzz in his junior season of 1993. He passed for 3197 yards and 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 633 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on the ground.
For his efforts, McNair earned his third consecutive SWAC Offensive Player of the Year award and once again was named 1st Team All-SWAC, leading the Alcorn to an 8–3 record.
Epic Season of 1994
McNair’s senior season was the most spectacular in SWAC history. He set a Div. 1-AA single-game record of 647 total yards and eight passing touchdowns against Tennessee-Chattanooga. Against Southern, McNair dropped dimes to the tune of 587 yards and five TDs.
McNair passed for another 563 yards vs. Samford. He earned his fourth SWAC Offensive Player of the Year award after passing for 5377 yards and 47 touchdowns and rushing for 904 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the Braves to a SWAC title.
McNair earned the Walter Payton Award as the top player in Div. 1-AA. He was also named 1st Team Div.1-AA All-American and awarded the Eddie Robinson Trophy as the best player in HBCU.
1994 Div. 1-AA Playoffs
After securing a share of the SWAC title, the Braves faced off against Youngstown State in the Div. 1-AA playoffs. Still suffering from a hamstring injury, McNair lost his mobility, which made him one dimensional. In fact, he rushed for -32 yards in the game.
He still completed 52 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw three INTs in a 63–20 loss.
For his college career, he passed for 14,496 yards and 119 touchdowns. He rushed for 2327 yards and added 33 scores on the ground.
His 16,823 yards of total offense still remains a Div. 1-AA (FCS) record today.
McNair Owned Jackson State
Against Jackson State, McNair led the Braves to a 4–0 record against their arch-rival, totaling 1772 yards of total offense in those four games. In the 1994 game vs JSU, McNair threw for 533 yards and 5 TDs…on a bum leg.
A Trip to the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City
In ’94, McNair was named a finalist for the most coveted award in college football-The Heisman Trophy. He, along with Colorado RB Rashaan Salaam, and Penn State RB Kijana Carter were invited to New York. McNair came in 3rd in the Heisman voting, with Salaam hoisting the hardware.
On to the NFL
McNair steadily moved up team draft boards in advance of the 1995 NFL Draft. And, on Day 1 his name was called. McNair was selected 3rd overall by the Houston Oilers.
Four years later, he led the Tennessee Titans (the team formerly known as the Oilers) to a Super Bowl appearance in 2000 against the St. Louis Rams but came up short in a 23–16 loss.
McNair’s NFL stats/accolades include:
- 3X Pro Bowl
- NFL MVP (2003)
- Titans/Oilers Ring of Honor
- Titans #9 Retired
- 31,304 passing yards
- 174 passing TDs
- 119 INTs
He was tragically shot and killed in July 2009.
During his four years in the SWAC, Steve McNair wowed the crowds from Lorman, MS to Baton Rouge, LA and all gridirons in between.
He truly was a human highlight reel.
Side Note: Late in my college years, I worked retail loss prevention for a department store in Hattiesburg, MS. An autograph signing was set up by Steve McNair’s agent Bus Cook, a Hattiesburg-based attorney/agent, at the store I worked at.
I actually got to meet Steve McNair in the lead up to the ’95 NFL Draft and worked security for him at that autograph signing. He was cordial and very humble, not cocky. As a college football fan, it was a highlight of my life.
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