McNair Feels Good About Coming Season

By Kareem Copeland
Updated: July 9, 2007

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Approximately 400 high school football players stormed M.M. Roberts Stadium this past Saturday to compete in the Steve McNair 7-on-7 Championship. 24 teams played through scattered rain.

The 34-year old Baltimore Ravens quarterback, 2003 co-MVP and Mount Olive native who sponsored the day of football took time to answer a variety of questions.

Q. How are you feeling football-wise?

A. I’m good. Every year you try to prepare yourself better than you have in the past. Every year you want to get better. You want to come into training camp in the best shape of your life. That’s my goal every year. I’m in good shape. I’m ready go. We’ve got some good things added to this offense with (running back Willis) McGahee. Our defense is always going to be great. So, we’re just looking to compete on the high level that we did last year.

Q. Is this the first season in a while that you haven’t had offseason surgery?

A. It’s been a while. For eight seasons straight it’s been something I had to deal with during the offseason. But it’s a blessing. This year I was able to leave the game at the end of the season healthy and be able to start my offseason program earlier than I have in the past.

Q. How many more years will you play?

A. I’ve got two or three more years left in me. Not that my body will be done. I’ve got kids (four boys) to raise, to see them play. They’re playing the game of football. It doesn’t work out as far as me getting the opportunity to see them play. Me getting the opportunity to teach them how they need to be taught – as far as how I was taught. I think that’s a fine opportunity for me to get out the game and make sure I can enjoy them growing up and enjoy them playing the game of football.

Q. Have you followed the proceedings concerning ex-NFL players and their pensions?

A. I look at all the former NFL players that have played the game, dedicated themselves to this game for years and years. And all the sacrifices and all the punishment they’ve taken and not being rewarded in the end. I don’t mean to get into politics, but you look at all the things the people who served in the Vietnam war and served in the war today and you look at homeless veterans and the government is not even taking (care) of how they provide for those people after they’ve served our country.

I feel the same way about the ex-NFL players who dedicated their life to some sport we love playing. If this is a business, you have to act as a business. Just like the veterans who fought for our country. But where is the housing for these people once they got out of the war? Where are the caretakers for people who’ve had 20 concussions during the course of a career? I think it’s a great idea of setting a standard to take care of these people who’ve sacrificed their body, mind and family for something they love.

Q. What is your opinion on the new commissioner, Roger Goodell, taking a harder stance on off-field player transgressions?

A. The NFL is the American sport. It’s the hottest thing going on in the world today, as far as sports-wise. I think when the commissioner came in, everybody has a objective and a goal to what they want to present to every team and every player in the National Football League. (Paul) Tagliabue had his way. Goodell has his way. We all have to abide by those rules. That’s everyday life. You have to abide by the rules. He’s trying to make it hard and make it a clean game – make the people that are watching this game understand we want to continue to keep this as America’s sport. I think that’s why he’s making it so hard, so rough and making those strict rules – so it can be a clean game, so everybody can enjoy the game. As a player, myself included, we have to understand when a rule has been set we have to abide by those rules.

Q. How has this trip to Mississippi been, having put on a camp at Alcorn State on Friday?

A. It’s been a busy summer for me as far as doing this and doing other things with other players in the National Football League. Trying to help kids, not only in Mississippi or Tennessee or Baltimore, but all over the world. I believe the kids are our future and that’s what allows me to do the things I do. This is something I love doing. I don’t do it because of notoriety or because people tell me to do it. I do it because that’s where my heart’s at. That’s why I see this camp grow each and every year. It’s not only dealing with football camps. It’s also dealing with fundraisers for underprivileged kids. It’s also dealing with the family resource centers as far as giving kids the opportunity to have a good Christmas and have a good Thanksgiving. It’s about hitting the hot topics that the less fortunate cannot afford during special times of need. That’s what this foundation (the Steve McNair Foundation) has done. The thrill I get out of it is just seeing those people happy. We do a lot of different things in the community to try to get young people to notice that somebody does care.

Q. What’s the most fulfilling part?

A. Just the thrill of seeing these guys out here competing against each other. Seeing these guys out here making the sacrifice and dedicating themselves to something they love doing. I did it as a young kid and these guys are making the same sacrifices. One day I can see some of these guys grow up to be in the NFL. That’s what motivates me. The state of Mississippi has always been the backbone of the National Football League, if you look at it stats-wise. We’re going to try to continue to have that backbone. If you look at some of the greater guys from the state of Mississippi that have been great role models and NFL players. Long as we can continue that tradition, I think we’ll be fine. I enjoy coming out every year and doing the things I need to do to make sure these guys have the equal opportunity as everyone else to be successful in life – not just on the football field.

Q. What’s the importance of doing the camps for free?

A. It’s real special (to me). When I was growing up, one of the most famous coaches in college history Eddie Robinson, I had the chance to go to one of his camps my sophomore year in high school and that was free. I saw all the talent and all the commitment that he had done over the course of that camp. When you are not fortunate to have the financial background as a young kid, but have the athleticism… those are the things you have to look at. Everybody’s not fortunate with their financial background. Everybody’s not as fortunate to have the talent that we have. But you try to give every kid the same opportunity as the next kid to enhance their ability on and off the football field.