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Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair shot and killed

He is found dead in a residence with a woman who was also shot and killed.

July 05, 2009|Sam Farmer

Details trickled out of Tennessee late Saturday about the death of quarterback Steve McNair, a onetime NFL co-most valuable player who, along with a female companion, was found shot in a Nashville condominium.

Police said McNair, 36, a retired Tennessee Titans star, was found on a sofa and had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, whereas 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi had one to the head. A pistol was found near her body.

According to the Tennessean newspaper's website, police are treating the case as a possible murder-suicide.

The website also said authorities towed away a black Cadillac Escalade that likely was involved in a traffic incident two days earlier. Kazemi was behind the wheel of an SUV of that description two days earlier, when she was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test. McNair and Kazemi were registered as co-owners of the vehicle.

Police spokesman Don Aaron told the Associated Press that McNair's wife, Mechelle, is "very distraught" and authorities do not believe she was involved.

The emerging details of McNair's death stood in stark contrast to the rich recollections of his life.

"I have been talking about Steve McNair for years, because he was the face of our team," former teammate Brad Hopkins said. "His worth and what he meant to us as players, it's almost immeasurable. Historically, he is recognized as 'Titans football' and always will be."

The third overall draft pick by the Houston Oilers in 1995, McNair threw for 27,141 yards for the Oilers/Titans, second in club history to Warren Moon. The onetime Alcorn State star nicknamed "Air McNair" is the franchise's all-time leader in completion percentage, 59.5%; ranks second in completions, 2,305, and attempts, 3,871; and third in touchdowns, 156.

Moreover, he was remembered as a friend to teammates and coaches alike.

Once, when Norm Chow -- then Titans offensive coordinator -- off-handedly complimented him on his golf shirt, McNair had Nike deliver his coach two dozen of them.

"He was a very thoughtful guy," Chow said. "The players really responded to him and liked him."

The Baltimore Ravens, with whom McNair spent his final two seasons, tried to get a comment from All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis. However, team officials said Lewis was "having a tough time dealing with the news."

Born on Feb. 14, 1973, in Mt. Olive, Miss., McNair played 13 NFL seasons. He made four Pro Bowls, led the Titans to within a yard of forcing overtime against St. Louis in the 2000 Super Bowl, and in 2003 shared league co-MVP honors with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Just four months ago, a year after he retired, McNair was in Los Angeles shooting an episode of the Spike TV reality show "Pros vs. Joes," which pits retired professional athletes against everyday gym rats. McNair, easygoing and soft-spoken, showed up with a publicist who had a stack of "Air McNair" placards with her, ready for him to autograph.

"Just from talking to him, things seemed to be going pretty good for him," said fellow contestant Tim Brown, a retired Oakland Raiders receiver. "He was enjoying retirement to the fullest. From talking to him, I knew that he was married and all that. . . . I don't know anybody who would say anything bad about Steve, that's for sure. He seemed to be a very respectable guy."

By all accounts an outstanding and dedicated teammate, McNair did have some blemishes on his off-the-field record. In May 2003, he was arrested for drunk driving and for possession of a firearm. (Although he had a permit to carry the handgun, which was loaded, the license wasn't valid if he was impaired.) He was arrested for a DUI again in 2007 -- a charge that was later dropped -- when he was the passenger in his pickup truck, which was being driven by his brother-in-law. Under a Tennessee law, a vehicle owner is prohibited from letting it be driven by someone who is inebriated.

On Saturday, former teammates, coaches and friends around the league were shocked and heartbroken by the news of McNair's death.

"If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy," said Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle, who also played with him in Tennessee. "I can't even wrap my arms around it. It is a sad, sad day. The world lost a great man today."

Former Titans running back Eddie George recalled a routine he and McNair would go through before every game.

"The one thing that I do remember most about Steve was that we would both be together before every game inside the tunnel shaking everybody's hand, every player, every coach, every trainer, everybody that was a part of the Titans family," George said on ESPN. "And as we were going out and as we finished, we would stop and look at each other and say, 'I love you.' . . . His memories will always last forever. He was a warrior."

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, his quarterbacks coach for two seasons in Baltimore, said McNair had an especially close relationship with his four sons, speaking of them often.

"I know he was crazy about his kids," Neuheisel said. "We talked about our boys all the time. Talked about what we thought they could be and all that kind of stuff. . . . This was not a guy who was disappointed about sliding into retirement and didn't know what to do with himself. This was a guy that was still very much eager to live and to enjoy life."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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