Former Oilers QB McNair killed

July 5, 2009 9:51:33 AM PDT
The shooting death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair raised questions Sunday about his relationship with the 20-year-old woman whose body was found alongside him in his downtown condominium. [SPORTS BLOG: Read the latest from the Eyewitness Sports team]

McNair, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who was married with four children, was found Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds on a sofa in his living room. The woman was killed by a single gunshot wound and a pistol was discovered near her, police said.

Authorities didn't immediately say who was to blame for the killings, but they weren't looking for any suspects.

Police do not believe McNair's wife was involved, spokesman Don Aarons said. Mechelle McNair, mother of two of his four sons, was expected to collect her husband's belongings from authorities. Funeral arrangements were not expected to be finalized until Monday afternoon at the earliest.

"She's still very upset, very distraught," agent Bus Cook said.

McNair led the famous Tennessee Titans' drive that came a yard short of forcing overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl. He retired in last year. "On the field, there isn't a player that was as tough as him," the Ravens' Derrick Mason said.

Friends declined to describe the relationship between McNair and the woman, Sahel Kazemi, who was a waitress at a restaurant the quarterback and his family frequented. Police only described her as a "friend."

McNair, 36, and Kazemi had been together just two days earlier, when she was pulled over driving a 2007 Escalade registered to her and McNair. She was arrested on a DUI charges, and he was allowed to leave in a taxi.

The bodies were discovered by McNair's longtime friend, Wayne Neeley, who rents the condo in the upscale Rutledge Hill neighborhood with McNair.

Neeley then called Robert Gaddy, who had been friends with McNair since they played at Alcorn State. Gaddy alerted authorities.

"People have certain things that they do in life," Gaddy told The Associated Press on Sunday. "We don't need to look on the situation at this time (but) on the fact we just lost a great member of society."

Cook said he did not aware that McNair was seeing Kazemi, a woman whose name the agent learned about through reports of the shooting.

"It doesn't make any sense. I don't know what to say," Cook said.

Police said a witness saw McNair arrive at the condo between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday and that Kazemi's vehicle was already there. The condominium is located within walking distance of an area filled with restaurants and nightspots, a few blocks from the Cumberland River and within view of the Titans' stadium.

Autopsies were conducted Sunday with results expected later in the day.

Fred McNair, Steve McNair's oldest brother, said some family members would likely travel to Nashville on Monday to consult with Mechelle.

"It's still kind of hard to believe," Fred McNair said. "He was the greatest person in the world. He gave back to the community. He loved kids and he wanted to be a role model to kids."

An arrest affidavit from Thursday said Kazemi had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on her breath when she was pulled over, but refused a breathalyzer test, saying "she was not drunk, she was high."

Kazemi's ex-boyfriend, Keith Norfleet, told The Tennessean newspaper that McNair and Kazemi met at the Dave & Buster's in Nashville where she worked.

"She was reliable 90 percent of the time," manager Chris Truelove said of Kazemi. "She was pretty outgoing. A lot of the guests liked being around her, and she liked being around the guests."

Co-worker Shantez Jobe, 33, she said was friends with Kazemi. "We talked about who had more fashion sense, and who was the cutest, and who could get more boys, you know some of the stuff girls do," Jobe said.

In June, McNair opened a restaurant near the Tennessee State University campus. It was closed Saturday evening, but had become a small memorial, where flowers, candles and notes had been placed outside the door.

McNair led the Titans to the 2000 Super Bowl, which they lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. He was co-MVP of the NFL with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003. He also played for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring in April 2008.

His most notable moment came in the 2000 Super Bowl. With the Titans trailing by seven, he led the team 87 yards in the final minute and 48 seconds, only to come up a yard short of a touchdown. Kevin Dyson caught his 9-yard pass, but was tackled at the 1-yard line by the Rams' Mike Jones.

McNair accounted for all of Tennessee's yards in that drive, throwing for 48 yards and rushing for 14. The rest of the yardage came on penalties against the Rams. Before that, he brought the Titans back from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game.

"If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy," former Ravens and Titans teammate Samari Rolle said. "I can't even wrap my arms around it."

McNair grew up in rural Mount Olive, Miss., and became a nationally known college football star playing for Alcorn State, a Division I-AA school in his home state. He was so dominant in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, he became a Heisman Trophy contender. National media flocked to little Lorman in the southwest corner of the Magnolia state to get a look at "Air McNair." He still holds the Division I-AA (now known as Football Championship Subdivision) records for career yards passing (14,496) and total offense (16,823).

McNair was the third overall draft pick in 1995 by the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Titans. He finished his career with 31,304 yards passing and 174 touchdowns. McNair's rugged style led to numerous injuries and aches. He played with pain for several years, and the injuries ultimately forced him to retire.

During a five-game stretch at the end of the 2002 season, McNair was so bruised he couldn't practice. But he started all five games and won them, leading the Titans to an 11-5 record and a berth in the AFC championship game for the second time in four seasons.

McNair played all 16 games in 2006, his first season in Baltimore, and guided the Ravens to a 13-3 record. But he injured his groin during the season opener in 2007 and never regained the form that put him in those Pro Bowls.

McNair is survived by his wife, and sons Junior, Steven, Tyler and Trenton.

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