NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair, who led the famous Tennessee Titans drive that came a yard short of forcing overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl, was found dead Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Police said a pistol was discovered near the body of a woman also shot dead in a downtown condominium.
Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron identified the woman as 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, whom he called a “friend” of McNair’s. She had a single gunshot wound to the head.
According to the Tennessean newspaper, police are treating the case as a possible murder-suicide. The newspaper also reported that McNair had met the woman at a local restaurant and had been dating for at least a few months.
Police said the 36-year-old McNair was found on the sofa in the living room, and Kazemi was close to him on the floor. Aaron said the gun was not “readily apparent” when police first arrived.
Autopsies were planned for today.
Aaron said McNair’s wife, Mechelle, is “very distraught.”
“At this juncture, we do not believe she is involved,” he said. “Nothing has been ruled out, but as far as actively looking for a suspect tonight, the answer would be no.”
Fred McNair, Steve McNair’s oldest brother, said some family members likely will travel to Nashville on Monday to consult with Steve McNair’s wife.
“It’s still kind of hard to believe,” Fred McNair said. “He was the greatest person in the world. He gave back to the community. He loved kids and he wanted to be a role model to kids.”
He said he did not know who Kazemi was.
The bodies were discovered Saturday afternoon by McNair’s longtime friend Wayne Neeley, who said he rents the condo with McNair. Aaron said Neeley told authorities he went into the condo, saw McNair on the sofa and Kazemi on the floor but walked first into the kitchen before going back into the living room, where he saw the blood.
Neeley then called a friend, who alerted authorities.
Police said a witness saw McNair arrive at the condo in the upscale Rutledge Hill neighborhood between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday and that Kazemi’s vehicle was already there. The condominium is located within walking distance of an area filled with restaurants and nightspots, a few blocks from the Cumberland River and within view of the Titans’ stadium.
Two days ago, Nashville police arrested Kazemi on a DUI charge while driving a 2007 Escalade registered to her and McNair. McNair was in the front seat but didn’t break the law and was allowed to leave by taxi.
The arrest affidavit said Kazemi had bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on her breath, but refused a breathalyzer test, saying “she was not drunk, she was high.”
In June, McNair opened a restaurant near the Tennessee State University campus. It was closed Saturday evening, but had become a small memorial, where flowers, candles and notes had been placed outside the door.
On the restaurant’s windows were messages: “We will miss you Steve” and “We love you Steve.”
A note attached to a small blue teddy bear read, “We will never forget you, Steve. Once a Titan, always a Titan.”
“We don’t know the details, but it is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families involved,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
McNair, a four-time Pro Bowler, led the Titans within a yard of forcing overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl, which they lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. He also played for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring in April 2008.
His most noted drive, the last one in that Super Bowl, came when he led the Titans 87 yards in the final 1 minute and 48 seconds, only to come up 1 yard short of the tying touchdown. Kevin Dyson caught his 9-yard pass, but was tackled at the 1-yard line by Mike Jones.
McNair accounted for all of Tennessee’s yards in that drive, throwing for 48 yards and rushing for 14. The rest of the yardage came on penalties against the Rams.
McNair began his NFL career in 1995 with the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Titans, and finished with 31,304 yards passing and 174 touchdowns. McNair played with pain for several years, and the injuries ultimately forced him to retire.
“On the field, there isn’t player that was as tough as him, especially at the quarterback position,” the Ravens’ Derrick Mason said. “What I have seen him play through on the field, and what he dealt with during the week to get ready for a game, I have never known a better teammate.”
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