There have been many stars that have called Nashville and the Middle Tennessee home over the years.
Country music singers, actors, race car drivers have all called this area home, and then in 1999 Nashville became the home of the Tennessee Titans.
It was a new kind of celebrity, and Steve McNair along with Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and rookie sensation Jevon Kearse became bigger than life stars in a town not previously know for major sports stars.
Steve McNair, #9 personified the tough guy athlete, yet there was also something different about this guy from Mississippi. He got it when it came to his celebrity and giving back to the community and his fans.
One year ago today, the 4th of July, 2009 started like any other day. A bright beautiful sky, people about having cookouts, swimming and boating. It would turn out to end very differently.
There had been celebrity murders in Nashville before, but the city and mid-state had never seen anything like it was about to see as the events of this day unfolded.
At approximately 12:30 I received a phone call from a friend in the Nashville radio media who told me there were reports saying Steve McNair had been found murdered in a condo in downtown Nashville.
Televisions stations were beginning to report the same. Crews gathered around the scene at 105 Lea Avenue in downtown Nashville, just across the river and less than 3 miles from LP Field where McNair has preformed so well so many times.
Radio stations began reporting it with one local station going live with full time coverage and even having a crew member at the scene giving live reports as things were unfolding.
It was true, McNair was dead, having been shot twice in the body and twice in the head at close range. Another body, that of Sahel Kazemi was found in the condominium rented by McNair.
The bodies were discovered by McNair’s friends Wayne Neely and Robert Gaddy, who called 911.
Speculation began to swirl that the second victim in the condo might have been Michele McNair, Steve’s wife, however a Metro police spokesman reported that the female victim was not McNair.
Rumors of various possibilities as to the prepetrator and just how, and why the married McNair was found in the condo, with a woman who was not his wife began to spread as police and fans who gathered at the scene tried to determine just why # 9 was inside, dead.
Titans owner Bud Adams issued this statement shortly after learning of the death of McNair.
“We are saddened and shocked to hear the news of Steve McNair’s passing today. He was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans. He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they deal with his untimely passing.”
Metro police declared McNair’s death a murder-suicide, with Kazemi as the perpetrator and McNair as the victim. The 9-mm gun used was found under Kazemi’s body and later tests revealed “trace evidence of (gunpowder) residue on her left hand.”
Approximately 4,500 people attended his memorial service in Nashville and nearly 5,000 came to Green Coliseum on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi to say goodbye to the man they called “Air.’
Now one year later as we begin to celebrate our countries 234 birthday on this 4th of July 2010, it seem hard to believe it has been a year since the events of 2009 and the death of McNair took place.
The entire 2009 season was dedicated to the late quarterback as the team wore a #9 sticker on the helmets. The wall of fame plaque of McNair, who had just been placed there along with George and Wycheck in a halftime ceremony the previous season became a focal point for fans.
Vince Young was a key figure in the events of that day and those to follow as Young was the Titan closest to McNair.
Young , as a child attended the football camps that McNair hosted and the two became almost like a father and son.
“Pops” as Young often referred to McNair as was a key figure in getting Young off the streets of Houston and into football.
When I spoke with Young just over a week ago after a Titans OTA session I asked him to sum up his thoughts as the one year anniversary approached.
” I miss him and think about him every day, Pops was, and will always be an important part of my life and I can never repay to him or his kids what he meant to me.”
Now one year later as we remember the life and passing of McNair we will always remember what he did on the field, how he and the team came just one yard short of making Nashville a Super Bowl city.
We will also remember the great things he did off the field with his Steve McNair Foundation. However for most people it will be the events of July 4th, 2009 that come to mind first when they hear the name Steve McNair.
R.I.P. Steve, we miss you #9