20 Questions

with Steve McNair

September 07, 2006|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

How long have you been wearing No. 9? Is there any significant meaning behind the No. 9?

It all started in college. My brother [Fred] was the No. 9 before and went to Alcorn, where it was retired. I asked them if they could unretire it if I came out there. So they unretired it, and I've been wearing it ever since. [The number is retired once again at Alcorn State.]

What was your number in high school?

No. 11. Just a family tradition. My brother wore it, and everybody in my family who played quarterback wore number 11.

What was your welcome-to-the-NFL moment?

When I got drafted in 1995, it was overwhelming, coming from a small town and going to a small college. Now you're in the big city of New York on draft day. That's when I realized that the NFL was my calling.

What was your proudest moment?

I think it's going to the Super Bowl. We didn't win it, but it was an experience that you can't explain. That was one of my most memorable moments.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Getting up under the guard instead of the center. (Laughs.) I did that a couple times in my young days.

What is your favorite off-day activity?

Fishing. I usually fish by myself or with my kids. I just go to relax and get a moment to myself and think about life.

Do you have a favorite river or lake where you fish?

There's a private lake in Nashville that I go to all the time. One of my best friends, Drew Maddox, who's been a friend of mine for a long time, has a 10-acre lake out there. So we go out there and have a little picnic and do a lot of fishing.

What is the biggest misconception that the public has about football players?

We're human. We want to be normal, but people sometimes don't let us be normal because of the money we get paid and because it's football. We all want to be treated like we're normal people.

Do you wish you could be anonymous again?

Not really. It's fun when people come and recognize who you are and give you the accolades that you deserve. It's a blessing for me just to have that.

Of the injuries you've suffered, what was the worst one?

When I had the infection in my shoulder, that was as painful as it could get. I was in pain for a month because the doctors didn't know what was going on with my shoulder. That was the most pain I ever had. But I finally got it taken care of, we got it flushed out, and I was back to normal.

In an article in Sports Illustrated, your wife [Mechelle] jokingly referred to you as a "big baby." That can't be true, can it?

No, that's not true. (Chuckles.) But the thing about it is on Mondays, I acted like a big baby because I couldn't get out of bed, and she had to help me out of the bed. But overall, it's just one of those things. You give it all you've got on Sundays, and you pay for it on Mondays. That's what I've been doing.

You and your wife were college sweethearts at Alcorn State. How did you meet?

Actually, she hated me the first time we met because I had my foot on her book bag. (Chuckles.) But we became friends, and we dated for seven years and we got married in 1997.

The arm gesture you make after every touchdown is dedicated to your fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. What does it mean? When did you begin the tradition?

That's just the ritual we give at our fraternity. Throwing up the hooks, that's what we call it. That's what we do.

You are a quarterback, but you share the Mississippi state record with Terrell Buckley of 30 career interceptions in high school. Why did you make the switch?

I wanted to go out on the collegiate level and be a quarterback. I didn't want to go as a defensive back. I wanted to be that leader, to touch the ball every time. I chose that instead of going to a bigger school that wanted me as a DB. I wanted to play quarterback, and Alcorn gave me a chance.

What's better - throwing a touchdown pass or returning an interception for a touchdown?

(Laughs.) Both are sweet. But I'm into throwing them.

What was your toughest job as a teenager?

Well, we grew up in Mississippi. So we were baling hay and having chores and feeding the cows and all that stuff. We lived on a farm, so we had to do all of that.

As an 8-year-old, you accidentally set your right hand on fire when you tried to light a pile of leaves. Were you the kind of child who made your mom [Lucille] worry a lot?

I was one of those mischievous children who was always in trouble and always doing bad things and playing jokes on different people. I was that guy.

If you were stuck on an island, what's the one material possession you could not live without? My cell phone. (Laughs.) You've got to stay in contact. You've got to have communication.

If you were the NFL commissioner, what would you do or change?

I would change the rules on celebration. This game is all about having fun. When you work hard to get a touchdown, there's no "I" in team, but the guys need to celebrate what they've done.

Please fill out this sentence: "If I weren't playing football, I'd be ... "

Doing something with kids. That's something that I've always been a part of. I love going into the inner cities and helping those guys out and trying to better them.

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