Former NFL Quarterback Steve McNair Seemingly Led a Double Life

NASHVILLE – DECEMBER 18: Steve McNair #9 of the Tennessee Titans scrambles out of the pocket against the Tennessee Titans December 18, 2005 at The Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Friends of Steve McNair say everything seemed normal. Nothing seemed amiss. What you saw was what you got. A family man. A faithful man. A community-oriented and generous leader of a man.

But there existed another side to the former Titans quarterback and 2003 NFL co-MVP, one that was more susceptible to temptation. That’s the side that opened the door for a young, unsettled mistress to enter his life.

Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi shot and killed McNair before turning the gun on herself on July 4, 2009, the Metro Nashville Police Department concluded. He was 36. She was 20.

Ten years later, those close to McNair reiterate one point but end at another.

“There are a bunch of tragic stories of famous players and entertainers. It happens,” former Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason said.

But for that to happen to the infallible McNair?

“Shocking,” Mason said. “You were just in disbelief.”

Shaping a generation

One of McNair’s final community efforts was opening Gridiron9, a since-closed restaurant on Jefferson Street intended to give Tennessee State students an affordable place to eat.

“He established his business in the heart of the black community over at TSU to have a strong and powerful impact,” former Titans running back Eddie George said.

That was McNair.

His career as a professional athlete was dotted with examples of giving back, and he had no plans of halting that trend as he began retirement in 2007.

“He did as much as he possibly could to help the community,” Mason said of the four-time Pro Bowler and 2005 NFL Man of the Year nominee who was the highest-drafted African American quarterback in NFL history when he was selected third overall in 1995.

He established the Steve McNair Foundation to benefit youth charities and hosted his first youth football camp in 1999 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He led them multiple times a year in both Nashville and Mississippi, until the summer of his death.

“When Steve started holding his camps, nobody else was doing a whole lot of them,” said Mitchell Williams, a Mississippi sports anchor who was close to McNair. “He helped start that trend.”

Williams, who helped run McNair’s camps, saw how involved and engaged he was when working with young players.

“Touchable. Just so touchable and approachable and always spending time with those campers,” Williams said. “A generation of young people came to Steve’s camps.”

 Williams estimates 11,000 kids attended those camps.

“And all of them for free,” Williams said.

George remembers McNair making a speech before one of his camps. He had something written down — a script. It seemed inauthentic, though, so McNair ripped up the paper before speaking from his heart.

“He gave this really impactful, heartfelt speech that moved the crowd into giving toward his foundation,” George said. “I thought that was remarkable.”

That was the side of McNair that so thoroughly masked the other.

Not just one mistress

McNair had a crash pad, a condominium at 105 Lea Ave. he rented with a friend. Its function was simply to serve as a place away from family, a sort of bachelor pad where he’d whisk young women away for quiet affairs.

Kazemi wasn’t his only mistress at the time of his death.

There was Leah Ignagni, a 25-year-old with whom McNair had  a relationship with while being involved with Kazemi. Police believe that Kazemi finding out about Ignagni fueled her deadly intentions.

McNair spent the night with Ignagni on July 2, two nights before Kazemi killed him, according to police and court documents.

The investigative summary produced by investigators noted that McNair’s cellphone records contained text message correspondence with numerous women.

McNair was dancing with fire, said Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI agent who spent more than 25 years with the bureau, including about a decade with the Behavioral Science Unit.

“I think clearly this relationship and this part of his lifestyle – not only being married but I guess the process of maybe getting a divorce and having affairs with different women and apparently over just these few days … out nightclubbing a lot, drinking and partying and out late and all of this sort of thing – those variables are where you would look (in tracing his downfall),” McCrary said.

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Source: USA Today