Steve McNair touched on a variety of subjects at his eighth annual football camp at Goodpasture Christian School on Friday.
McNair’s camps, which are held both at Goodpasture and in his home state of Mississippi, have now seen more than a dozen alumni dot NFL rosters, including current Tennessee Titans draft pick Gerald McRath, first-rounder Peria Jerry of Ole Miss and former Goodpasture star Patrick Turner just this year.
Eyes on Young
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take McNair’s conversation with the media long to turn to one of the camp’s most famous alumni — current Titans quarterback Vince Young.
McNair said he spoke to Young a couple of weeks ago and detected signs of maturity from his protégé who lost his starting job in 2008 and furthered his fall from grace with other well-chronicled issues.
“I had a chance to talk with him a couple of weekends ago, to spend a little time with him. Vince is very excited,” McNair said. “He is very anxious to get back to be the starter for the Titans, and he’s doing all he can right now to get himself physically and mentally back in shape to where he can go out there and lead this team like he once did.”
At the crux of Young’s on-field issues last year was his apparent refusal to re-enter the season opener against Jacksonville just before suffering a knee injury. McNair himself admits to having his own premature retirement thoughts back in 2000 after a hit from Kansas City’s Duane Clemons broke his sternum, an injury that would eventually require surgery to fix years later.
“I think we all go through difficult times in our lives. I can remember the time when I got hit by Clemons of Kansas City and broke my sternum, and I called my agent and I told him I was ready to retire,” McNair said. “We all go through that. It’s just a part of life and a part of growing up. The thing that Vince has got to do is counteract and come back with a clear head, and say, ‘This is what I do. This is my profession’ and come back and play well. And I’m quite sure he will.”
Pros vs. Joes
Despite being retired for more than a season now, McNair did get back into action recently on the reality TV series “Pros vs. Joes,” and said it did fuel the competitive fires somewhat.
“I thought I was just going to go there and relax and have a little fun with some guys off the streets, but they fooled us. They had some guys that had just gotten out of college and had almost made it to the pros,” McNair said. “I had my work cut out for me, but the competitiveness came back out in me. It was a lot of fun just to get back out there and do something I’ve been doing for a long time, and just to go out and have fun with those people.”
Asked how much of the reality show was real and how much was staged, McNair replied, “The only thing that is staged is the talking. Everything else is real,” McNair said. “Did you see me get hit? I’m like, hold up. That’s why I got out of this game. I was tired of getting hit. The only part that is staged is the talking.”
McNair said he did lead his team to victory, and also got a chance again to be up close to his former Titans teammate, Adam “Pacman” Jones.
“I had an opportunity to play with Pacman, and we always played on the same team, but there’s something about him, his demeanor, he really wanted to get back into the National Football League,” McNair said. “He was over there well mannered. He was showing everything he could possibly do to show them he’s got what it takes to be in the NFL. You talking about a guy who has got a lot of talent. It’s unbelievable just sitting and watching him there in Pros vs. Joes.”
As for playing defense on the show, McNair has a new healthy respect for guys like Kyle Vanden Bosch and other defensive linemen. Playing in the secondary — he was a record-setting safety in high school — came a bit more natural.
“Rushing the passer sucks. I’ve got respect for those guys,” McNair said. “My defensive back skills, I pretty much held my own on those.”
As for the camp itself, McNair spent some time on the field throwing to some young campers, hoping they will develop not only as football players, but also as people.
Over the years, a number of players have come through the McNair camp and made it to the NFL, including quarterbacks like Young, Jason Campbell and former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
“In the eight years of these camps, there are more than a dozen who have are in the NFL, and there have been more than 70 players who have played Division I football,” said Mitchell Williams, media director for the camps. “And that’s not even counting the ones who played Division II, Division III or Juco.”
Said McNair, “We want to develop them as a person first. If you develop them as a person first, you can make a good football player out of them.”