McNair was more than a gladiator

Former Titans QB Steve McNair was one of the best quarterbacks to come from a line of small schools. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)

Former Titans QB Steve McNair was one of the best quarterbacks to come from a small college. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)

The NFL has lost a true gladiator with the tragic shooting death of Steve McNair. As I reflect on McNair’s career, I think of the inspiration he represents to players across the league, but particularly, players from small schools.

McNair took the mantle from Doug Williams, who was a legendary Grambling University quarterback. McNair was the next generation of SWAC quarterbacks to enter the NFL from Alcorn State University. McNair added mobility to go with that Howitzer on his shoulder.

Despite being the third overall pick in the draft, he was not ready mentally to handle the rigors of the NFL. Titans coach Jeff Fisher did a wonderful job of creating an environment for McNair not to feel pressured to have to contribute immediately. As McNair began to emerge as a top-flight QB, no one would have imagined that it would be his toughness that would be his mantra.

The under-reported aspect of his impact was his role as a mentor. Before Vince Young stepped on the main stage, it was McNair who took VY under his wing to fill the void of a father. It’s a truly sad day.

Jamie Dukes

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