Friday, July 10, 2009

More Air McNair News...

Coach, Teammates Remember Slain Ex-NFL QB McNair

By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The hit Steve McNair(notes) took to his chest in September 2000 had the NFL quarterback ready to quit the game. It caused him so much pain he spent a bye weekend with the team’s former chaplain in Houston. Then McNair, who struggled to breathe, watched his backup knocked out of the Titans’ next game.

“He turned and looked at me and winked,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher recalled Thursday night at a memorial service for the slain quarterback. “He grabbed a ball, threw it twice and ran on the field. Four plays later, he throws a touchdown pass to Erron Kinney(notes) and we win by three points.”

Fisher said he caught up to McNair walking off the field that day in Pittsburgh and started to talk when the quarterback interrupted and pointed to the sky.

“No more turf toe, no more sacks. No more shoulder problems, and no more interceptions, only touchdown passes. I’m going to miss you No. 9,” Fisher said.

McNair’s wife and family, friends, former teammates and coaches gathered Thursday night along with thousands of fans to remember his accomplishments on and off the field.

Ravens receiver Derrick Mason(notes), who played with McNair in both Tennessee and Baltimore, called the loss heartbreaking before the service. During the service, he called McNair’s wife, Mechelle, a woman who loved the quarterback until his final day.

Fans lined up starting Thursday morning to view McNair’s closed silvery-gray casket at a funeral home and later outside the church. A helicopter provided live TV footage as McNair’s body was moved by hearse, and three of four local TV stations showed the memorial service live.

McNair’s casket was on display at Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he had attended services since moving to Nashville in 1997. It was flanked by a large photo of him posing with his 2003 NFL MVP award on the right and another of him holding a football on the left.

McNair, who was married, was shot to death at his condo early Saturday by his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then turned the gun on herself. Police said her life was spinning out of control. But that wasn’t how those who knew McNair chose to remember him.

Bishop James W. Walker III opened the service by calling McNair one of Nashville’s own. In his eulogy at the end of the more than 90-minute service, he didn’t shy away from how the ex-quarterback died.

The pastor reminded the congregation of how Jesus told those without sin to cast the first stone when people wanted to kill an adultress. He urged those who talk about McNair to drop their stones because everyone makes mistakes. He also spoke to McNair’s wife, who later left walking up the aisle wearing sunglasses.

“You have inspired us all to endure hardship as a good soldier,” Walker said.

The program included a statement from the McNair family.

“Today in our loss, our hurt, and our pain we recognize our gains in you our friends and loved ones … They have all been a source of strength and comfort at this time to our family,” the statement read.

Titans owner Bud Adams, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and more than 30 of McNair’s former teammates attended.

Eddie George, who helped McNair take the Titans to their lone Super Bowl in 2000, was among the pallbearers along with four of the quarterback’s former offensive linemen who escorted his casket out as the service ended. During the service, George read a poem describing McNair as a warrior.

“You fought a good battle. Your life has just begun,” George read.

Jean Ryan got in line nearly two hours before doors opened at Mount Zion to say goodbye to the man she had followed since the NFL team moved to town in 1997.

“I love him, and he was a beautiful man and I will remember not the circumstances of his death but the great things he did for the Titans and the community,” she said, wearing a Titans’ pin and crying at what she called the “utter sadness.”

Approximately 4,500 filled the church sanctuary for the service. Church officials had overflow areas with a handful of people.

The Titans estimated approximately 9,000 people had visited LP Field, where fans were invited to reminisce about McNair’s career, between Wednesday and midday Thursday. Radio stations were broadcasting from the stadium, where the shop had sold out all of its McNair merchandise except for a few children’s shirts.

Derrick Lewis(notes) said McNair “put the Titans on the map.”

Lewis, wearing a Titans jersey, said he and his family were devastated when they learned of McNair’s death.

“Myself and my family were completely shocked and some of us were crying because you almost feel like you are related,” Lewis said.

But Lewis said the details of the killing haven’t changed his opinion of McNair.

“I will always remember him for the good things that he did for the community and the Tennessee Titans,” Lewis said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Associated Press Writers Kristin M. Hall and Lucas L. Johnson II contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Police: McNair Shot Dead In Sleep By Girlfriend

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Sahel Kazemi was determined to be with her boyfriend, former NFL star Steve McNair(notes)—even in death.

As he dozed on a sofa early Saturday, Kazemi shot him in the head, then twice in the chest, then again in the head.

Before shooting herself, the 20-year-old sat next to his body and “tried to stage it so she would fall in his lap,” Police Chief Ronal Serpas said Wednesday at a press conference where police confirmed the deaths were a murder-suicide. She did, but her body slid to the floor and ended up at McNair’s feet. The gun was found underneath her.

Serpas said police believe McNair was asleep when he was killed.

Interviews with friends revealed that Kazemi “was spinning out of control.”

She was making payments on two cars, her rent was doubling and she suspected the married McNair was having a second affair with another young woman. end it,” Serpas said.

Police earlier had labeled McNair’s death a homicide, but waited for further tests before concluding that she pulled the trigger of a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol in a condominium McNair rented with a friend.

McNair, 36, a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans most of his career, met Kazemi six months ago at a sports cafe where she was a waitress and his family often ate. She seemed happy and eager to build a life with him, but something went wrong.

“We do know that she was clearly sending a message during the last five to seven days of her life that things were going bad quickly,” Serpas said, though there was no indication she told anyone she planned to harm McNair.

Serpas said detectives learned that Kazemi recently found out about another young woman she thought McNair was romantically involved with and had even followed that woman home, though she did not confront her.

Kazemi’s family told reporters that the woman was so confident McNair was divorcing his wife of 12 years that she was preparing to sell her furniture and move in with him.

But Mike Mu, who has worked with McNair’s charitable association for years, said earlier Wednesday that McNair’s wife, Mechelle McNair, “didn’t know who this girl is.” No records of divorce proceedings have surfaced. The McNairs have four children.

Two days before the shooting, police stopped Kazemi driving a Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicle that McNair had given her for her birthday in May.

According to an arrest affidavit, Kazemi had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on her breath. She refused a breath test and told an officer “she was not drunk, she was high.” She was charged with DUI. McNair was with her but not charged. He later made her bail.

Police are awaiting toxicology reports on both bodies.

The man McNair shared the condo with discovered them Saturday and called a friend, Robert Gaddy, who arrived and called 911. Serpas said the man didn’t call 911 himself because he was in shock.

Gaddy said Wednesday that what he saw in the condo will haunt him for the rest of his life, but he was glad police made clear that his longtime friend did not suffer.

Serpas said that even though both Kazemi’s name and McNair’s were on the Cadillac’s title, she was apparently responsible for making payments. She was also making payments on another car after she couldn’t sell it.

Kazemi had no history of violence, but “on the last several days of her life it’s obvious that she made some very poor decisions,” Serpas said.

Mechelle McNair has not spoken publicly since the shooting. Bishop Joseph W. Walker III of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which the McNairs have attended since moving to Nashville in 1997, said Wednesday that she is doing as well as can be expected.

“Her faith is what’s sustaining her now,” he said. “We haven’t talked about the circumstances of his death. She is processing it in a private way. It’s obviously devastating on so many levels.”

Gaddy defended McNair as a great husband.

“When Mechelle is ready to speak, she will let people know that. We can’t justify anything that people are starting to find out, but the one thing that we can say, that I know for sure, is that Steve loved his family,” Gaddy said.

A memorial service is set for Thursday night in Nashville, with the funeral Saturday in his native Mississippi.

The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback was being remembered Wednesday at the stadium where he played much of his career. The Tennessee Titans opened LP Field for fans to watch video highlights of McNair’s 13-year NFL career and look at photos of the quarterback. There was also a book for them to write messages that will be given to the family.

McNair was known as “Air McNair” for his passing prowess at Alcorn State in Mississippi. In 2000, he helped lead the Titans to the Super Bowl, where they ended up a yard short of a touchdown on the last play of the game when they trailed by seven points.

He spent the last two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens before retiring from the NFL last year.

Associated Press Writers Travis Loller, Joe Edwards, Kristin M. Hall and Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

Officer: McNair Unhappy In Girlfriend’s DUI Stop

Mugshot From Previous DUI in 2003...Ironically same cop that pulled him over earlier pulled over his girlfriend this time around.

By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—If former NFL star Steve McNair’s(notes) girlfriend was upset about being arrested for drunken driving two days before she killed him and herself, she didn’t let it show.

McNair was a passenger in Sahel Kazemi’s car when Nashville police arrested her a week ago. Police released video of that DUI stop Wednesday, the same day they confirmed that Kazemi, 20, had killed McNair and then herself in a condo McNair rented.

In the video, recorded by patrol car cameras, Kazemi laughed and teased the officer, but also repeatedly asked to have McNair come to the window of the police cruiser where she was sitting.

The officer responded, “He’s not happy.” McNair, who wasn’t charged, left in a cab without talking to her.

“I told him you wanted to talk to him and he was more than welcome to come back to the car. He just left in a taxi,” Officer Shawn Taylor told Kazemi.

“I just want to know if Steve is going to come get me from jail,” she said. He later bailed her out.

Kazemi, who was smiling, told the officer that she was not drinking and driving and that she was just high. Then she immediately said, “I’m not high.”

As the officer questioned her, she got a call from someone who identified himself as Steve. Police Spokesman Don Aaron would not confirm the caller was McNair but said that could be inferred from the conversation.

The caller, who could be heard through speaker phone, told Kazemi the officer was one who had arrested him before.

Taylor stopped McNair and his brother-in-law in May 2007. McNair was charged with DUI because police said he allowed someone who was inebriated to drive his vehicle. That charge was later dropped.

“Do not let him know anything,” the caller said.

Kazemi interrupted him to say, “I know, baby, you’re on the speakerphone.”

She told the officer later, “He told me I was going to meet you someday.”

She continued to laugh and joke with the officer, calling him names and reading over his shoulder as he typed up his report.

Police said Wednesday that Kazemi was spinning out of control because of mounting financial problems and her suspicion that McNair was seeing someone else.


McNair's Baseball Path Not Chosen

By Amy K. Nelson

Thursday, July 9, 2009
On an April afternoon in 1991, Dan Jennings experienced baseball kismet. Jennings, at the time an area scout for the Seattle Mariners, had some time between college games and scanned the newspaper for a listing of other local games. In Mendenhall, just off U.S. Highway 49 between Hattiesburg and Jackson, Miss., he took a chance.

When he got out of his car, he saw a future star playing shortstop.

"He was Adonis," Jennings says. "A muscular kid; athletic build. I'm thinking, 'This is my day. The baseball gods are shining on me.'"

The scout was locked in on Mount Olive High School's shortstop: a tall senior whose baseball skills were raw, but clearly a pure athlete. Jennings scanned the park for other scouts, realized he was alone and started quizzing people in the stands about the Greek god on the field.

"Steve McNair," they told him. Good kid, extremely popular at his high school, real involved with the community, all-American character. Convinced McNair had huge baseball potential, Jennings invited him a month later to a private workout the Mariners held for a dozen local kids.

It was clear to Jennings and fellow scout Mickey White that day that McNair's baseball skills lagged behind his athleticism. When he fielded a ball at shortstop, Jennings says, it looked as if McNair were a Catholic priest because he "bent down on one knee like he was praying."

Jennings moved McNair to the outfield during the workout and the two scouts' eyes lit up. They were wowed by his power, athleticism and ability to take instruction.

"He was a joy to be around," says Jennings, now the vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager for the Florida Marlins.

He convinced the Mariners to draft McNair in the 35th round of the '91 draft, and soon thereafter Jennings was in tiny Mount Olive, Miss., negotiating with the McNair family.

He sat down in the family's small home and offered Steve $15,000 and a college scholarship to play baseball for the Mariners. Steve, his mother and one of his brothers went into a back bedroom and pondered the decision. That left Jennings with McNair's grandmother as the two watched "Wheel of Fortune" on an old 13-inch black-and-white TV.

"Just me and his grandmother," Jennings says with a laugh.

After about an hour of debate and myriad questions, McNair politely declined the offer. For McNair, the offer wasn't high enough to forgo following his brother, also a quarterback, to Alcorn State to play football.

"I had made the decision to go," McNair told The (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal in 1994. "It wasn't the idea of the money for me. It was the idea of the money for my mother. But my mom and my brothers talked to me about the long-term, and that I wasn't ready to control life on my own."

Jennings wasn't able to counter with a better offer, but he followed McNair's career. Four years later Jennings made sure he was at the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., to watch McNair prepare for the all-star game. Standing on the sidelines, he marveled at "Adonis" and admired how McNair was still effervescent. McNair immediately came over after practice and embraced Jennings.

"Son, you made the right choice," Jennings told him. "I have no idea if you'd be in the major leagues right now. But if you change your mind, I'm sure we could find a spot for you in Seattle's outfield."

It was the last conversation Jennings ever had with McNair. On Saturday while at a family barbecue, Jennings got a call from one of his sons about McNair's tragic death.

"It saddens me," Jennings says. "I'll always remember standing on the sidelines, watching Steve and that million-dollar smile he had."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for She can be reached at


Thursday, July 9, 2009
McNair had taped PSA in April

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee state officials say they had been preparing a youth suicide prevention public service announcement featuring former NFL quarterback Steve McNair before he was shot and killed last week.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities says it's shelving the 60-second television spot, which hasn't yet aired.

The department issued a statement Thursday saying "broadcasting it now is not only inappropriate but doesn't serve the community."

Department spokeswoman Jill Hudson said McNair taped the spot in April, and producers had been doing post-production work in hopes of using the announcement sometime this year.

Police say a 20-year-old girlfriend of McNair's shot and killed him on July 4 before killing herself in Nashville.

Fisher: Focus On McNair's Positives

By Paul Kuharsky

Monday, July 6, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As fans mourn former Titans quarterback Steve McNair and await the final determination of a police investigation, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher asked that fans put aside the circumstances of McNair's homicide and reflect on his good qualities and résumé instead.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit with troops, a bleary-eyed Fisher said McNair led a group of players that "put this franchise on the map" and talked of the toughness and leadership that were McNair's hallmarks.

"My hope is that we can get past the circumstances and let those go, OK, and dwell and stay focused on the type of player and person that he was," Fisher said.

Saturday McNair was shot twice in the head and twice in the chest in a downtown condominium. The woman with him, 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, died from a gunshot to the head. The gun was found beneath her. Police haven't been searching for a suspect. They've ruled McNair's death a homicide but have not ruled on Kazemi's death yet.

As if channeling a player who guided the Titans to only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, Fisher said: "The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say, 'I'm sorry, I'm not perfect, we all make decisions sometimes that are not in our best interests, please forgive me.' The Steve McNair that I know would want me to say, 'Celebrate my life for what I did on the field, for what I did in the community, for the kind of teammate that I was.'"

Eddie George, the running back who lined up in the backfield with McNair for eight seasons, delivered the news of McNair's death when his call to Fisher's cell phone got through to him in Kuwait. He and three others -- former tackle Brad Hopkins, former safety Blaine Bishop and current long-snapper Ken Amato -- sat beside Fisher while the coach spoke.

George spoke briefly at the podium too, echoing Fisher's theme.

"Like Jeff mentioned, [we can] get past the circumstances and look at the human being we were all impacted by," George said. "He blessed us with so many memories, so many great times. He really has had a positive impact on this community and we'll miss him dearly."

Fisher said his last visit with McNair at the coach's charity softball game June 20 suggested McNair was thinking about getting into coaching. Fisher invited him to spend time with the team during training camp. The coach joked about the contrast of McNair's intense drive and motivation with his devotion to "Gunsmoke" and Andy Griffith on TV.

Hopkins, who protected McNair's blindside, spoke more angrily than Fisher or George.

"It's so attention getting, here now it's not just a story about a man who's been shot," he said. "It's now the saga, the soap opera which has lead up to his death. And yeah, that sounds sexy and that's attractive and everybody wants to be a part of that, just finding out more and more dirt."

Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South for


Kid Quarterback Found ‘Living Proof’ In McNair

By Corey Green of The Memphis Tri-State Defender
Never saw him play in person and never formally met him, and still Steve McNair had a big impact on me.

I played quarterback in little league, high school and at the collegiate level. For me, McNair was living proof that it was possible for an African American to succeed big time at the quarterback position.

As kids growing up in New Orleans, we played a lot of football and we all had different NFL guys we liked and mimicked. McNair was my guy. Every time I threw a deep pass or rifled a bullet between defenders, I would yell “McNair” as I was throwing the ball.

Over the years, my admiration for the player known as “Air McNair” grew as I came to view him as a person with the strength and will power to overcome obstacles.

Raised by his single-mother parent, Lucille, in the small farming town of Mt. Olive, Miss., life was often difficult for McNair. As the story goes, many times he and his brothers didn’t have money to get new clothes or toys like the other kids. There is no evidence that he did much complaining.

Determined and patient, McNair became a nationally known college star during his tenure at Alcorn State University, a Division I-AA school in Lorman, Miss. His performance in the Southwestern Athletic Conference was so dominant that he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1994. The SWAC records for career passing yards (14,496) and total offense (16,823) still belong to him.

Tony Williams, the Metro New York beat writer who covers the New York Knicks, recalls McNair as the Alcorn star who wasn’t too big or too busy to offer encouragement when Williams – then a wannabe walk-on quarterback at Grambling State University – sought him out on the field before pre-game. McNair told him to work hard and to listen to his coach, the legendary Eddie Robinson

I’ve been listening and watching as the numbers, plays and seasons associated with McNair have been revisited since news surfaced that he had been fatally shot to death in New Orleans. I am not yet sure what to make of the events that led to his death. But no matter how it shakes out, I’m holding on to the facts and memories that helped a young boy in the Crescent City dream beyond stereotypes.

“I’m happy to say I got a chance to watch one of the greatest competitors play the game,” Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said Monday during the team’s press conference.

Coach, I didn’t get the up close and personal view of McNair’s pro career that you did. I loved and respected him nonetheless. And that is something we do share.

(Email Tri-State Defender sports columnist Corey Green at

Memorial Services for Steve McNair

• The Titans are inviting fans to LP Field on Thursday (July (9) to pay their respects to quarterback Steve McNair.

• A public memorial service for McNair will be held on Thursday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church (7594 Old Hickory Blvd., Whites Creek, TN 37189).

• A second memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 11 in Hattiesburg, Miss. at Reed Green Coliseum on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.

• In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Steve McNair Foundation.

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