The memorial service for Steve McNair on Thursday at Mount Zion Baptist Church turned into a makeshift reunion for the fallen quarterback’s many teammates, as well as a place for his many admirers to not only grieve, but to celebrate his life and career.
There were some who spoke of McNair’s valiant efforts on the football field; others praising him for the way he always managed to play through injuries and lead his teammates each week.
McNair, 36, was shot and killed last Saturday, but at Thursday’s memorial, all the sordid details of his death were laid aside to remember McNair the football player, teammate, friend, father and husband.
“I don’t think you truly get over it,” former Titans running back Eddie George said. “I think you just start to accept the fact that Steve is no longer here in the physical form. This day is obviously to help bring closure for us and to celebrate his life and look at all his accomplishments as a player, as a man in the community, as a teammate and a friend.”
George had his own special tribute to McNair during the memorial service, reading a poem he wrote, “Where Do the Warriors Go?” — something he said came from a line his father used when one of George’s dad’s closest friends had died.
“I wrote it in my office a few days ago just thinking about him,” George said. “These words just started coming out of me.”
Many notables pay their respects
The gathering not only brought together McNair’s teammates, coaches, family and friends, it also included a variety of people ranging from Titans owner Bud Adams, Gov. Phil Bredesen and Mayor Karl Dean to hundreds of fans compelled to pay their last respects to the star quarterback.
For most all, there was still a state of mourning and disbelief.
“You never think that you will have to do something like this. You never think that you would have to give last remarks to his family, and talk about the good times that you had with him,” said Derrick Mason, a teammate in both Tennessee and Baltimore who eulogized McNair in the service. “He was a friend. He is a friend. I’m not going to say it in past tense. He is a friend and will remain a friend. His family will remain friends. We built that trust over 10 years ago and it has lasted this far, and it will continue to last.”
Not only were many of McNair’s former teammates and coaches present, but so were plenty of friends and Titans fans who simply wanted to pay their respects to him.
“We’re not family, and we’re not close friends, but everybody just wants to pay our respects and just thank him for all he’s done and all the joy he’s brought. I just needed some kind of closure,” said Dorsey Hamby of Brentwood, who sported a No. 9 McNair white Titans road jersey as she entered during the visitation time.
That sentiment was echoed by Titans senior executive vice president Steve Underwood, who counted himself among the many McNair admirers.
“When he was starting for us, he was indispensable,” Underwood said. “He just had such great character as a player and I’ve never seen a player who was so intent on competing as Steve was.”
Thursday’s memorial created in itself an almost surreal situation with a who’s who of Titans past making their way into Mount Zion Church to pay their last respects.
Outside, media trucks, cameras and reporters were on hand to gather and disseminate reports of the proceedings, while on more than one occasion, helicopters buzzed overhead.
During one portion as traffic was filing in around the church, a truck backed into a sports car, causing a brief delay, but police on the scene quickly routed traffic around the accident.
Among the many visitors to make their way to the church were members of the local chapter of Omega Psi Phi, the fraternity McNair belonged to at Alcorn State, and the one he saluted by raising his fingers above his head after nearly every touchdown pass he threw in the NFL.
“He called it throwing it up, and that sign he made when he threw a touchdown pass, that’s what we do in recognition of each other,” said Ed Morant, district director for the fraternity.
Click here to read teammates memories of McNair.