NFL

There Are Still Many Questions About the Tragic Death of Steve McNair

Steve McNair, born February 14, 1973, in Mount Olive, Mississippi, played 13 seasons in the NFL from 1995 through 2008. Steve McNair played for the Tennessee Titans for the majority of his professional career, leading the team to their first Super Bowl in 2000. The Titans nearly won the game after recovering from a 16-point deficit.

McNair was named joint MVP along with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003, played in three Pro Bowls, passed for 31,304 yards, and rushed for 3,590 yards during his career. As a player, he was known for his toughness and his ability to scramble and pass on the run, but his legacy is marred by the events surrounding his death.

Steve McNair’s football career

Steve McNair looking downfield for a receiver to throw to
Steve McNair scrambling out of the pocket | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Although some larger college football programs recruited McNair as a defensive back, he chose to stay in Mississippi and commit to historically black Division I-AA Alcorn State University where he could start at quarterback.

McNair started every game except one during his four-year college football career. A college career that saw him throw 119 touchdown passes. He also gained 16,823 yards passing and rushing combined during his college days for a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) record. He set a single-season FCS record with a total of 5,799 yards his senior year and finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy race.

The Houston Oilers, who would become the Tennessee Titans in 1999, used their first pick in the 1995 NFL draft to select McNair as the third pick overall. The 2000 Super Bowl was as close as McNair would ever come to winning on the NFL’s biggest stage but it forever engrained him in the hearts of Titan fans.

After moving to play two seasons for the Baltimore Ravens, McNair retired from professional football in 2008 and returned to Nashville, Tennessee where he would lose his life on July 4, 2009.

Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi

In an in-depth article posted on ESPN’s website, Elizabeth Merrill provides a detailed description of Sahel Kazemi’s life, personality, and relationship with Steve McNair. The article describes Kazemi as a caring and attentive friend. Kazemi was born in Tehran, Iran, and immigrated to the United States through Turkey after the death of her mother.

Kazemi was much like many other American teenagers. She had few friends and struggled to fit in. She eventually dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be with her boyfriend but that relationship didn’t last.

At the age of 19, she met McNair at Dave & Buster’s where she worked as a waitress. By May 2009, six months after they met, McNair was paying some of her bills and had helped her with a down payment on a Cadillac Escalade. 

Kazemi’s relationship with McNair was rocky and Kazemi was falling into financial troubles and incurred a DUI a few days before she was found dead next to McNair on July 4, 2009.

Murder/suicide?

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The official ruling of the case surrounding Steve McNair and Kazemi’s deaths is murder/suicide. Officials believe that McNair’s mistress, Kazemi, lured McNair to a meeting and carried out a plan to kill him by shooting the former NFL star four times with a semi-automatic 9mm handgun before turning the gun on herself.

In fact, evidence supporting this includes gunpowder residue on Kazemi’s left hand, indicating she had recently fired a weapon, and the murder weapon being found under Kazemi’s head next to McNair.

However, people close to Kazemi and/or McNair question some particulars in the case. McNair’s friends note that he generally carried large sums of cash at all times but was found with only $6 in his wallet after his death.

According to the Tennessean, Vincent Hill, a former police officer turned private investigator, points to Adrian Gilliam, the man that allegedly sold Kazemi the murder weapon. Gilliam’s alibi does not hold up under scrutiny, and records indicate he was texting with Kazemi frequently on July 3, 2009. 

The truth about what happened that night may never be clear. The only thing for certain is that the world lost an NFL legend and young woman with her entire life ahead of her.