Aside from how Steve McNair might be viewed as a person and remembered off the field, it is clear how important of an impact he had on the field and specifically for Mid-Major teams. He attended Alcorn State, a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1995.
Alcorn State was part of the D1AA Division, now known as NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, and it is pretty rare for players to be drafted from the FCS and have successful careers in the NFL. McNair illustrated to us, that it is possible to be great not coming from a big named program.
While at Alcorn State, McNair put up great numbers. He produced right away as a freshman where he was thrown into the first game of the season and threw for three touchdown passes in a victory over Grambling State. He set a FCS record in 1994 with 5, 799 total yards in 11 games.
The way he played the game, his ability to run as well as pass and the fact that he was doing this at such a small school began to bring a lot of attention to McNair and Alcorn State. They were receiving a lot of media coverage including some of their games being televised and of course the cover story done on McNair promoting his Heisman candidacy.
This brought a lot of recognition to the smaller schools and opened up more doors for high school athletes. These athletes didn’t have to have to worry about showcasing their talents at DI schools or teams that consistently get national attention. Instead they could go illustrate their skills and abilities at a smaller school and be a ‘big fish in a small pond.’
McNair ended up finishing third in the Heisman voting behind Rashaan Salaam (Colorado) and Ki-Jana Carter (Penn State) neither of which had even close to successful pro careers as McNair.
"Air" McNair opened the doors for the likes of Jared Allen( Idaho State), Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa), Terrell Owens (Tennessee-Chattanooga), Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), Bryant Westbrook(Villanova) and Joe Flacco (Delaware) among many others to make a name for themselves at smaller schools to attract the attention of NFL personnel
All college football fans should thank Steve McNair for broadening our college football horizons and making us appreciate and realize that there is plenty of competitive collegiate football being played all over even if it is not Michigan and Ohio State.