Fans, Family Turn Out for McNair Funeral
A stirring eulogy for Steve McNair urged a capacity crowd to "drop their stones" of judgment over the former NFL quarterback's death, reminding them of McNair's generosity and talent that made him one of Nashville's favorite sons.
"To the children, always remember this about your father - you had a great father. He was a great man. Take a look around this sanctuary and all the lives he touched," said Bishop Joseph Walker III, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Walker's eulogy animated the estimated 4,500 people who filled the sanctuary and dozens more in the overflow rooms of Mt. Zion Baptist Church's Whites Creek location. McNair's wife and two youngest sons were among the mourners, plus more than 30 fellow players from McNair's days with the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens.
The service was part memorial celebration of a life lost and part pep talk - perhaps befitting a man whose life was, in many ways, defined by football. Those McNair played with and worked with through his charitable efforts took the stage to applaud his generous contributions of money and time. He contributed to charities from Centerstone to the Boys and Girls Clubs to his own Steve McNair Foundation.
But Walker spoke of what no one else did, refusing to shy away from "the big elephant in the room" and addressing the "sickness" that ended the football star's life on July 4. Police believe McNair's girlfriend shot him four times while he slept, then killed herself, in part because she suspected he was involved in a second affair.
Walker related the New Testament account of an adulterous woman who religious leaders brought to Jesus, suggesting that she be stoned for her sins. Jesus replied, "Ye without sin, cast the first stone."
"And I have come to declare from the youngest to the oldest in America and over this world, it's time to have a stone dropping service," Walker nearly shouted to rousing applause. " ½lcub¾hellip½rcub¾ Next time you write about Steve McNair, drop your stone. Next time you text somebody, drop your stone. The next time you Twitter, drop your stone."
Tributes were given over a closed white casket covered with roses and lilies. Behind the podium, larger-than-life pictures of McNair smiled out to the crowd. In one he was holding a football and in another standing next to his 2003 MVP trophy.
In tributes to McNair, his friends focused on the man who gave to his community but made time to go fishing with his sons. They praised his wife, Mechelle McNair, for sticking by her husband's side and loving him in good and bad times. They assured McNair's sons their father loved them.
Omega Psi Phi, McNair's fraternity brothers, began the evening by honoring him as an eternal member. The 150 men dressed in black suits flanked either side of his casket.
The fraternity's crest rested in front of McNair's casket. Players and coaches sat in a section to the left of Mechelle McNair, who was ushered in with family members at the last minute to the front row, a large picture of her husband to her left.
One former or present-day Titan after another took the podium to share his memories. Some mourners shouted down from the balcony to encourage Derrick Mason when was overcome by emotion during his tribute. Eddie George received a standing ovation after he read a poem that he wrote. After Kevin Mawae spoke, he handed a personal note to Mechelle McNair.
"That was tough, to carry his casket out," George said after the service. "Now he has to go to his final resting place. Knowing that's Steve's remains, that's his shell in that casket. That is not Steve. And I am not going to remember him in that capacity."