Ask anyone who played with or coached Steve McNair, and you'll always hear him described as an incredibly hard worker, a tough-as-nails quarterback and a devoted teammate. In the wake of a terrible tragedy where McNair was found shot to death, those who knew McNair are left saddened and in shock. Just take a look at some of the reactions to the 36-year-old's death.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason, who played with McNair for both Tennessee and Baltimore, was especially close to him both on and off the field. Here's what Mason had to say, via ESPN:
"He was a fun teammate. Hard worker. A guy that tried to get the most out of everybody on the team. Rarely do you get an opportunity to play with an individual that had so much passion for the game, and would sacrifice everything he had to make sure his team went out there and won a game. He was one of those rare individuals, and for me it was an honor to play with him basically all my career up until this point ...Cornerback Samari Rolle, who also played extensively with McNair, was taken aback by the news:
I saw countless times, going into the training room on Monday and seeing him on the table and seeing ice everywhere and trainers working on him, just to try to get him back for next Sunday. And he would be that way for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, sometimes even Thursday. And then on Friday he'd do a little [in practice], but still be able to go out there Sunday and play as if he wasn't hurt. It amazed me to see somebody, especially at that position, to be so tough and to play through all that he went through, with the injuries."
"To lose such a good friend and a good man so soon doesn't make sense," Rolle said. "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."Jim Fassel, the former Ravens offensive coordinator, told The Washington Post that "there was nobody who didn't like Steve McNair." Fassel continued:
"You talk about toughness, this guy is at top of the list. He played with pain, could take a hit and never ran from a hit ... You admired him because he always tried to do what you wanted him to do. He wasn't a complainer and was always the first to take responsibility, even when things weren't necessarily his fault."Even those who didn't get the chance to play with McNair -- like Redskins QB Jason Campbell -- were gracious for the opportunity to be a star in this league, an opportunity that was paved in large part because of black quarterbacks like McNair.
"The whole black quarterback thing, it's like a fraternity. Guys who played before you pass the torch down to younger guys. You always keep in contact with those guys who came before you. You try to keep in contact with them and learn as much as possible from them. Losing a guy like that our of 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. It's just a real hard day."Courage. Leadership. Commitment. These are the qualities that ring true in every memory about McNair. But there is another role McNair played that shouldn't be forgotten: Mentor. When he retired last year, Vince Young and Troy Smith were two quarterbacks that expressed how deep their connection was.
"I love him as a father figure, and I cherish the relationship that we have," Young told reporters after McNair's retirement. "He taught me so much - not about the game, but about life, and I owe him a great deal."
Smith was even more glowing in his praise, saying "You're talking about one of the top five quarterbacks ever to play the position. I don't care what anybody says. You talk about the toughness he had. You talk to anyone that played with him. They'll tell you."
And they most certainly have.
Regardless of how this case evolves over the coming weeks, no one can take away the kind of football player and teammate McNair embodied. The character he instilled in young QBs like Campbell, Young and Smith lives on.
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