It’s likely that if Steve McNair came along today, he would have never set foot on Alcorn State’s campus. In fact, with the nuanced recruiting websites and technology that permeates high-school recruiting today, it’s very likely there will never be another HBCU quarterback as talented as McNair. Part of the reason is that athletic, black quarterbacks are now acceptable in all of college football. This was not the case in the early 90s, when McNair was offered a full-ride to play for Steve Spurrier at Florida–as a defensive back. Knowing in his heart that he wanted to be a quarterback, McNair rejected the glitz and glamor of big-time, SEC football and chose to play at tiny Alcorn State. The rest, as they say, is history.
Blessed with a powerful arm and nimble athleticism, Steve “Air” McNair is easily the most successful professional quarterback ever produced by an HBCU.The numbers speak for themselves. After completing a spectacular college career in which he re-wrote the NCAA Divsion I-AA (Now Championship Subdivision) record books, McNair finished third in Heisman voting in 1994. He was selected third overall by the Houston Oilers, which at the time was the highest an African-American QB had ever been drafted.
After performing mostly mop up duty the franchise’s last two years in Houston, McNair’s career really took off when the team became the Titans in 1999. That year, he and running back Eddie George led the franchise to its first ever Super Bowl, coming up just a few yards short in the end. McNair continued to improve, peaking in 2003 as he threw for over 3,200 yards, 24 touchdowns and completed 62.5 percent of his passes en-route to being named CO-MVP with Peyton Manning.
After playing his last few years with the Baltimore Ravens, McNair finished his pro career with 31, 304 yards passing, throwing for 174 touchdowns and running for 37 more. The three-time Pro-Bowl participant finished with a career passer rating of 82.5 and ranks in the top 20 in career completion percentage. Sadly, McNair’s life was ended prematurely as he was killed as a part of an apparent murder-suicide in July of 2009.