Former NFL MVP Steve McNair Shot and Killed in Nashville

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, known for his prolific passing and on-field toughness during a 13-year NFL career, was shot and killed in Nashville, police said yesterday.

McNair, 36, and a woman were found dead in a condominium complex, a Nashville police spokesman told reporters gathered near the property. Investigators had not yet drawn any conclusions about the circumstances of the shooting, said Don Aaron, the spokesman.

Police identified the female victim as Sahel Kazemi, 20. Authorities said she had one gunshot wound to the head, that McNair was shot several times, and that a pistol was discovered near Kazemi's body. Autopsies are scheduled for today.

Kazemi was charged with driving under the influence after being stopped early Thursday in a vehicle registered to her and McNair, according to authorities.

Earlier yesterday, police had declined to identify the female victim but had indicated that it was not McNair's wife, Mechelle.

"I don't have any answers for you now as to what's happened, who's responsible, what the circumstances are," Aaron said.

No one had been arrested for the shooting, said Aaron, who indicated that investigators were questioning visitors to the complex to see if they had any information.

"We are saddened and shocked to hear the news of Steve McNair's passing today," Titans owner Bud Adams said in a written statement released by the team. "He was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans. He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they deal with his untimely passing."

Former Titans and Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said the jolting news reminded him of the shooting death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor in 2007.

"That's the first thought that went through my head when my wife called after it went public," Williams said. "I immediately thought of Sean and actually I spoke with Sean's dad [yesterday] and spoke with him and said happy Fourth of July and had a great conversation, back and forth with him about Sean, and then I got the phone call [about] Steve."

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, who admired McNair while growing up near him in Mississippi, said: "I'm just devastated. Just in shock right now. He was so great in our community."

Campbell added: "The whole black quarterback thing, it's like a fraternity. . . . Losing a guy like that from our fraternity . . . it hurts because of how much you looked up to him. He's definitely one of the guys I looked up to. A lot of other guys looked up to him, too."

McNair played 11 seasons for the Houston Oilers and Titans franchise and his final two seasons for the Ravens. He threw for 31,304 career yards and 174 touchdowns, and was the NFL's co-most valuable player with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in the 2003 season.

McNair was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and led the Titans to a Super Bowl appearance in the 1999 season. They lost to the St. Louis Rams, falling one yard shy of a tying touchdown on McNair's last-second completion to wide receiver Kevin Dyson.

"There was nobody who didn't like Steve McNair," former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said yesterday. "He was probably one of the most easy-going guys I've ever been around."

McNair was plagued by injuries throughout his career and retired after playing in six games for the Ravens in the 2007 season.

McNair was known as "Air McNair" for his record-setting passing at Alcorn State. By the end of his NFL career, he was known more for his grit. Said Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, who was the running backs coach for the Oilers and Titans during McNair's first 11 seasons: "The main thing I'll always remember about him is his toughness. I have never been around a player as tough as Steve McNair."

Cornerback Samari Rolle, another former teammate in both Tennessee and Baltimore, said he "still can't even believe it.

"To lose such a good friend and a good man so soon doesn't make sense," Rolle said in a written statement released by the Ravens. "If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy. I can't even wrap my arms around it. It is a sad, sad day. The world lost a great man today."

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said in a written statement: "This is so, so sad. We immediately think of his family, his boys. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. What we admired most about Steve when we played against him was his competitive spirit, and we were lucky enough to have that with us for two years. He is one of the best players in the NFL over the last 20 years."

McNair had opened a new restaurant in Nashville in June, located near Tennessee State University.

Staff writers Paul Tenorio, Rick Maese, Jason Reid and Les Carpenter and special correspondent Sheila Burke contributed to this report.

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