Remembering Mount Olive’s Steve McNair, 10 years after his death

Remembering Mount Olive's Steve McNair, 10 years after his death

MOUNT OLIVE, Miss. (WDAM) - Just off highway 84 – about eight miles from Prentiss – sits Griffith Cemetery.

It’s not a particularly large cemetery, maybe 100 burial plots in total – among them lies Steve McNair’s.

It may seem like a humble gravesite for the 2003 NFL most-valuable-player and the NCAA’s all-time leader in total offense (16,823 yards).

Then again, it just might be the perfect memorial. Steve’s resting place is quiet much like his hometown of Mount Olive.

Oh, but that town of less than 1,000 could get loud on Friday nights – especially when Steve had a football in his hands.

"Steve put Mount Olive on the map,” said Cliff Kelly, mayor of Mount Olive. “One of its brightest, brightest stars."

“The things that he did on the field was amazing,” said Fred McNair, Steve’s older brother. “You don't teach that. It's like he's a part-magician or something."

That magic took Steve to New York in 1994 as a senior at Alcorn State, where he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

It eventually took him to the 1995 NFL Draft, where the Houston Oilers selected him third overall. The magic turned into 31,304 passing yards, four Pro Bowls, the 2005 Walter Payton Award and Super Bowl XXXIV.

After 13 seasons in the NFL, Steve retired in 2008 allowing him to focus on his first love – family.

Steve was the guy who brought people together, hosting youth football camps every summer in Mississippi. He enjoyed fishing with his brothers and barbequing very Fourth of July.

The McNair’s were preparing for a Mount Olive cookout in 2009 when their celebration suddenly turned into heartache.

"We were sitting there, just talking,” said Lucille McNair, Steve’s mother. “Matter of fact, we were talking about [Steve]. And then the phone rung.”

"I got a phone call and somebody told me, ‘Turn to Sportscenter,’” said Tim McNair, Steve’s older brother. “Normally when you turn to Sportscenter, you think about highlight reels or something like that."

Tim learned by watching television that his younger brother Steve had been shot and killed by Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi before shooting herself in a murder-suicide on July 4, 2009 in Steve’s Nashville condominium.

Steve was 36-years-old, survived by his wife Mechelle and four sons.

"I just lost it,” Lucille said. “I just started screaming and hollering and just couldn't think."

"I had put my guns and stuff in the vehicle and the car and stuff,” Tim said. “[I was going to] head to Nashville. Whoever did this to my brother, I was going to get them. I ended up turning around before I got to Collins. It was a dark day for me. It took a part of me that I don't think I ever found since then."

"We lost a good brother,” Fred said. “He was good to everybody, man. He was a very friendly person."

Long after Steve’s highlight reels run out of tape – his spirit lives on in the McNair’s and in Mount Olive.

Steve McNair may appear absent July Fourth among the barbecue and red and blue – but he’s there.

“It just doesn’t seem like ten years,” said Fred, who enters his fourth season as Alcorn State’s head football coach. “It just seems like it’s just a day or two ago – just like he’s still here in some sense.”

“I still have moments that I’m waiting on a phone call or Mother’s day flowers,” Lucille said.

“A lot of people say, ‘Happy Fourth of July,’” Tim said. “But since the fourth when he passed away, I don’t have a happy Fourth of July. He’s gone but his memories always live with us.”

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