To this day, the late Steve “Air II” McNair’s name is synonymous with football excellence, philanthropy, and his alma mater, Alcorn State University. The Alcorn State University Foundation, along with the Steve McNair Memorial Foundation, held a special event to celebrate his legacy and inaugurate a fundraising initiative that will support students for years to come.
The new Steve “Air II” and Mechelle McNair Endowment was announced during the Celebrating the Legacy Endowment Gala Thursday, Oct. 24 at The B.B. Club in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The endowment will support both academic and athletic endeavors for exceptional students at Alcorn. McNair’s former Tennessee Titans teammate and 1995 Heisman Trophy Winner, Eddie George, hosted the event and served as the keynote.
The Steve McNair Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing McNair’s charitable efforts. Established in 2019 by his wife and two sons, Mechelle, Tyler, and Trenton McNair, the foundation supports academic, athletic, health, and wellness endeavors in underserved communities.
When reflecting on his old friend and teammate, George spoke highly of McNair. He praised the former Titan for his selflessness and ability to mentor the youth.
“Steve would give you the shirt off of his back,” said George. “He didn’t like to disappoint others. He was known for embracing and immersing himself into his community. He mentored so many young football players that went on to have NFL careers. He mentored them and taught them how to be leaders. He operated with a spirit of kindness.”
George told the story of his first time watching McNair play in a college game against Youngstown State in Ohio. He said that despite a losing effort, McNair not only had a stellar game, but also he played the whole game with a severe injury. George said he respected McNair for the grit he showed on the field that day.
“He was a great player. To watch him sacrifice his body for his team despite it being his last collegiate season before entering the NFL was inspiring. Watching him sacrifice his body for his team earned my respect.”
As George went to his seat, he encouraged the supporters to honor McNair’s legacy by contributing to the endowment to help students prosper.
“Let’s further Steve’s legacy by multiplying our efforts to produce love, kindness, perseverance, inspiration, and excellence by supporting the Steve McNair Foundation. Our support for this initiative will inspire young men and women to be successful.”
The charitable efforts of the McNair family are a reflection of the person he was. His wife, Mechelle, acknowledged his affinity for giving back. She’s happy about partnering with Alcorn to preserve his giving legacy.
“Steve would always say that receiving awards felt good,” said Mechelle. “But for him, what felt better was his ability to help and touch the lives of others. We are a family that has been blessed to bless others. As long as this foundation lives, Steve’s legacy will live on.”
Several other guests shared their feelings about the Alcorn legend. Dr. Jason Cable, senior associate commissioner for administration for the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), said that McNair’s dominance brought visibility to the SWAC during his era.
McNair’s former coach, Cardell Jones, spoke about McNair’s love for Alcorn. He also thanked the McNair family for trusting the Braves coaching staff to nurture him into the player he became.
Former teammate and NFL wide receiver, Torrance Small, said that he learned the importance of perseverance, engaging with others, being content, gratefulness, and love from his old friend.
Dr. David Marion, the grand basileus for the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., spoke about McNair’s drive to bring attention to the fraternity.
President Dr. Felecia M. Nave closed the event by stating the importance of celebrating McNair for being an iconic figure in the eyes of many.
“It is important that we celebrate our icons because if we don’t, nobody else will,” said Nave. “We celebrate one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.”