Church, Titans fans pay tribute to No. 9

By Jill Cecil Wiersma
Updated: July 5, 2010

NASHVILLE — From the pew to the barstool, Steve McNair fans remembered the fallen quarterback Sunday on the first anniversary of his death.

Tre’von Etter, 11, kept a somber expression when he was picked out of the congregation to hold a portrait of the former Titan during the Sunday morning service at McNairy Hill Baptist Church. Etter, who has played football since he was 5, said he appreciated the service for his favorite football player.

“He said to always believe in God,” Etter said.

The small congregation took McNair’s murder hard, said Earl Jordan, founder of Partners in the Struggle, an advocacy group for crime victims and their families. He asked the church and others to pray for McNair and his family.

Jordan asked everyone to celebrate the positive choices McNair made in his life, such as starting the Steve McNair Foundation, which gave $30,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee and sought donations in support of Hurricane Katrina relief.

Congregation members pointed skyward — borrowing McNair’s signature move each time he made a touchdown. Jordan joked that he wasn’t just pointing at the clouds.

“That was what he put first every time he went into the end zone,” Jordan said.

McNair jerseys worn

Sunday afternoon at The Corner Pub some fans showed up in McNair jerseys as a tribute to the fallen athlete. Over beers and rock music, they recalled where they were when they heard about the murder/suicide at a Second Avenue condo at the hands of McNair’s girlfriend, Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi.

Heather Hicks said she was moving to her downtown apartment and got a call from her friend, J.D. Denney.

“I was just in shock,” she said. “I get sad just thinking about it. He was just super human. Anytime the team was down, he’d get them back up, even if he was hurt. That’s why it was such a shock.”

On a pedestal

Denney said the community reveres McNair and will always remember moments like the final play of the Super Bowl in 2000, when McNair passed the ball to Kevin Dyson, who fell one yard short of the goal line.

“We just have him on a pedestal,” Denney said.

Kiersten Collier said it’s unfortunate that the nature of McNair’s death may tarnish his legacy. She met him once and got his autograph, which she keeps tucked away with other mementos.

“Yeah, he ran around, but that was between him and his wife,” she said. “I think most McNair fans will remember the good stuff. It seemed like he was never too busy to stop for a fan.”