Thousands turn out to memorialize, honor slain quarterback

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Steve McNair’s family, friends, former teammates and coaches gathered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville Thursday night, along with thousands of fans to remember the slain ex-NFL quarterback’s accomplishments on and off the field.

Steve McNair memorial
The memorial was held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Bishop James W. Walker III opened the service by calling McNair one of Nashville’s own.

The program included a statement from the McNair family.

“Today in our loss, our hurt, and our pain we recognize our gains in you our friends and loved ones … They have all been a source of strength and comfort at this time to our family,” the statement read.

Titans’ owner Bud Adams, Governor Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and more than 40 of McNair’s former teammates and current NFL players attended.

Emotions overtook Titans quarterback Vince Young as he walked into the memorial service.

Young’s relationship with McNair dates back to his days as a teenager at McNair’s football camp.  He has not spoken publicly since McNair’s death.

Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, who played with McNair in both Tennessee and Baltimore, called McNair’s death heartbreaking.

In a speech during the service, Mason said McNair will always remain a friend.

“He is a friend.  He will remain a friend.  His family will remain friends to us.  We built that friendship over 10 years ago and it has lasted this far and it will continue to last,” he said.

Eddie George, Steve McNair memorial
Former teammate Eddie George

Mason also called McNair’s wife, Mechelle, a woman who loved the quarterback until his final day.

Eddie George, who helped McNair take the Titans to their lone Super Bowl in 2000, was among the pallbearers, along with four of the quarterback’s former offensive linemen.

George said he doesn’t think they will ever truly get over McNair’s death.

“I think you just start to accept the fact that Steve is no longer here in the physical form,” George said. “And today obviously is to bring closure to us and to celebrate his life with all his accomplishments as a player, as a man in the community, as a teammate, as a friend.”

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher thanked McNair for the wins on his resume and also delivered a final farewell.

“As we speak, Steve is sitting in the press box with our lord and savior Jesus Christ, with headsets on smiling, laughing and listening to this right now.  No more turf toe, no more sacks, no more shoulder problems and no more interceptions.  Only touchdown passes.  I’m going to miss you No. 9,” he concluded.

McNair was shot to death last weekend inside the downtown condo he co-rented on Second Avenue South.

Police ruled his death a murder-suicide on Wednesday and his 20-year-old girlfriend was responsible.

The week has been a difficult one for many.  Several former teammates spoke about the loss before Thursday night’s service.

“I just couldn’t put it together,” said former teammate and Titans tight end Frank Wycheck.  “I just didn’t understand.  I just didn’t think something like that would ever happen to a guy like that so just very, very, very hurtful.”

Steve McNair memorial service
Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher

“I don’t even know what to say.  I’m going to miss him.  I loved him like a brother.  He’s just a great guy, and it’s sad,” said former Titans guard Benji Olson.  “It’s a sad, sad day to see him gone, especially in the fashion that, you know, everything happened, so I mean, I’m just distraught.”

Fans began lining up Thursday morning to view McNair’s closed silvery-gray casket at a funeral home in north Nashville and later outside the church.

At Mt. Zion, where McNair had attended services since moving to Nashville in 1997, his casket was flanked by a large photo of him posing with his 2003 NFL MVP award on the right and another of him holding a football on the left.

Approximately 4,500 filled the church sanctuary for the service, and church officials had overflow areas with a handful of people there.

McNair leaves behind Mechelle, his wife of 12 years, and four sons, Steve, Jr., Steven, Tyler and Trenton.

McNair’s funeral and burial service will be held Saturday in Mississippi.

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