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Too Good To Pass Up: Steve McNair defied the odds in 1995 NFL Draft

They questioned his school and his brain. But Steve McNair’s talent was too much to pass up.

11:40 AM.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was ready to announce the Oilers pick. The cameras zoomed in on McNair in the green room as the Commish announced the Oilers selection.

“With the third choice in the first round, the Houston Oilers select quarterback from Alcorn State: Steve McNair.”

McNair, surrounded by family and supporters, looked down, stood up and flashed his 1000-watt smile for the entire nation to see as he was engulfed by hugs.

“They had the guts to pull the trigger,” exclaimed ESPN’s Chris Berman, rattling off his college statistics “I don’t care who he’s playing against, Joe — that’s unbelievable.”

Theisman praised McNair’s athletic ability, mechanics and toughness as the nation watched his highlights. He compared the newly drafted quarterback to John Elway, which was very high praise.

“He may be raw around the edges, but diamonds are as well before they become very valuable stones.”

Joe Theisman on Steve McNair


For McNair and his family, it was a moment years in the making. His brother, Fred, had been a star at Alcorn State, but never made it to the NFL. Steve himself had been asked to move to defense by Division I-A schools before following his brother’s lead. Now he was not only a first-round pick, but the highest ever drafted black quarterback in history at that point.

“I’m glad this process is over with,” McNair admitted. “I can concentrate on doing the things I’ve got to do to prepare to be the quarterback in Houston.”

And, of course, he gave a shoutout to the home team.

“I couldn’t have did it without the teammates back home at Alcorn State University, the coaching staff also. It’s those guys that makes me the quarterback I am today.”

When asked if there were any pros he had reached out to in preparation for the draft and his pro career, he reached across the SWAC and pulled out a name that pretty much everyone at home would know.

“Doug Williams, being in the SWAC, being in the league and being a Super Bowl MVP— he’s really led the way. He made it easy for me, telling me how to cope with the things that’s gonna be (involved) as a quarterback in the National Football League.”

Indeed Williams had been in McNair’s shoes two decades earlier. Williams made his mark playing for the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling State, where he also garnered Heisman votes during his senior season. He was selected 17th overall by Tampa Bay, whom he spent the first part of his career with before going to the USFL and eventually becoming a Super Bowl MVP with the Washington Redskins.

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Too Good To Pass Up: Steve McNair defied the odds in 1995 NFL Draft
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