MSU vs. Alcorn State Historical: Steve McNair... the defensive back?

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

We've all heard of the "Mack Brown recruited ______ player as a safety" meme, but long before that, there was the time that Jackie Sherrill recruited Mount Olive QB Steve McNair as a defensive back. Of course, many teams did.

Editor's Note: So, my purpose for running this series every week was to detail a big game between Mississippi State and the team they are playing that week from years past.  Unfortunately, MSU and Alcorn have only played once before this season: a 49-16 MSU win in 2010.  Therefore, I decided to take a different angle this week, and take a look back at a prospect many schools, including Mississippi State, missed on because they said he couldn't play quarterback at the college level: Steve McNair.

It truly is amazing when you stop and think about the NFL talent that has come out of the state of Mississippi.  Walter Payton, Brett Favre, Steve McNair, Jerry Rice: all these names are synonymous with the NFL's all time greats, and they all hail from our small, often-the-butt-of-jokes State.  What can even be more surprising to some is just how under-recruited many of these stars were coming out of their small Mississippi high schools.  For most it was the same story: undersized for their position.  Or, they simply didn't get the looks that they deserved.  Either way, the Mississippi State's and Ole Miss' missed out on a ton of future stars over the years

One of those stars was Alcorn State's Steve McNair: the electric all-purpose quarterback that finished third in the Heisman voting in 1994.  McNair may have gone unnoticed heading into college, but as he exited he was more than well known by those in football.  That would translate into Steve being the third overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft to the Houston Oilers.  Steve, quarterback who was once deemed too small for the position, would go on to play 13 seasons in the NFL, amassing over 31,000 passing yards, and leading the 1999 Tennessee Titans to within inches of a World Championship.

While Steve's history in the NFL is well documented and widely known, his recruitment at the college level may not be.  Coming out of Mount Olive High School, Steve was in fact being widely recruited by top schools, but as a defensive back, his secondary position in HS.  This, from a 1993 story by Sports Illustrated, tells specifically about then-MSU coach Jackie Sherrill's recruitment of Steve Monk McNair:

215-pound Monk was courted by most of the big schools in the South, but he had difficulty convincing the coaches that he could play quarterback in college. Mike Archer, then the coach at Louisiana State, wooed the wide-eyed Monk mightily, but he made no mention of throwing passes, just intercepting them. Miami coach Dennis Erickson talked about playing in the wrong backfield as well. Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill told him he could be the best defensive back ever to come out of Mississippi. Sherrill spoke of giving Monk a shot at quarterback during two-a-days in the summer, but Monk didn't trust him.

Steve didn't trust JWS?  Why, he might be the first and only (sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm).  That's right: long before there ever were jokes about Mack Brown recruiting top tier QBs as DBs, The Kang was already doing so.  In his defense though, so was nearly every other major Division 1 school that had taken interest, due to McNair being slightly undersized.  That should serve as a perfect example as well of how imperfect the recruiting process can be at times.

After nearly signing with Southern Miss, McNair would ultimately opt for Alcorn State, which would offer him the chance to play his favorite position, quarterback.  Alcorn was also where Steve's brother, Fred, had played quarterback, so the draw to head to Lorman and become the new signal caller was even greater.  As the rest of college football would soon learn, Steve definitely had the skills to play QB at a level higher than high school, as Air McNair amassed amazing statistics, including nearly 4,000 passing yards, 2,000 rushing yards and 50+ touchdowns in his senior season, when he finished third in Heisman voting behind Rashaan Salaam of Colorado and Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State.  He followed Heisman finish up a few months later with his first round selection in the NFL Draft.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

[NOTE: I highly recommend reading the full article linked above.  Really interesting look from 1993 into Steve's recruitment, and the decision that he made]

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