Mourners streaming by McNair's casket
WHITES CREEK, Tenn. -- Mt. Zion Baptist Church isn't far from Interstate 24, north of Nashville. The parking lot is lined with orange cones and guides in orange vests, all set up to handle the 5,000-plus people expected to come here to pay their final respects to Steve McNair.
|ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky|
|Mourners wait to enter Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Whites Creek, Tenn. to pay their respects.|
An hour after the funeral procession arrived, a thick line of fans snaked from the door up a steep driveway.
Visitors are black and white, young and old, dressed in suits and shorts sleeves, scrubs and shorts, and No. 9 jerseys of every variety: Titans home and away, Ravens black, Oilers blue.
The procession past McNair's closed, silver-colored casket -- covered with white lilies, flanked by large pictures of McNair in a suit, one with him holding a football, the other with the 2003 NFL MVP trophy in hand -- is moving briskly, with no pauses or stops. It will last for nearly three hours.
Dorsey Hamby, 52, had met McNair several times and once signed an autograph for her: "To Dorsey, my greatest fan ever."
"He treated us like we were his best friend," she said, keeping her composure as she headed for the line. As she walked out of the sanctuary, she was dabbing at her tears. "I always thought it'd be me, not him, that maybe they could get him to come to mine."
Members of Omega Psi Phi, McNair's fraternity from Alcorn State, sweated through dark suits as they approached the church and added white gloves as they stood beside the casket.
|ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky |
|Tyron Eason, left, and Namon Anderson are members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. The fraternity will pay tribute to McNair, also a brother, with a ceremony Thursday night.|
The fraternity will conduct a memorial service for a half hour before the church's memorial begins.
"We have a ritual we abide by when a brother has fallen," said Namon Anderson, 33, an educator who lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "We send him to the celestial chapter."
Wreaths and pictures of McNair lined the lobby, along with a giant collage.
McNair's wife, Mechelle, is expected to attend the memorial service. His mother, Lucille, is not. A second memorial is scheduled for Saturday on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi before his burial.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Derrick Mason, who caught McNair's passes as a Titan and a Raven, are among those scheduled to speak here. Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and Vince Young are to be among the pallbearers.