More than a thousand mourners gathered Wednesday for the funeral of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old remembered for his ability to light up any room with his gap-toothed smile.
McNair died June 13, two weeks after collapsing during an organized team workout in College Park. A cause of death has not been disclosed.
McNair’s classmates and teammates from College Park filed into pews at the New Psalmist Baptist Church, alongside the people he knew from his high school years at McDonogh.
A four-star recruit, McNair was the highest-rated Baltimore-area high school player in the Class of 2017. He fielded scholarship offers from scores of football powerhouses, including Alabama and Ohio State. But the Randallstown resident chose the Terps.
He told people: “I am staying close to home because I just love my family,” according to the funeral program.
At 6 feet 4 and 320 pounds, McNair earned a reputation as a “gentle giant.” He devoured his mother’s banana pudding, excelled in mathematics and was his father’s best friend.
“You couldn’t have been a better gift than you were,” said his father, Marty McNair.
The elder McNair recalled the lessons he tried to impart onto his son. Some were simple: how to tie shoelaces, how to tie a tie.
Others were more personal. He often told his son: “Don’t be like me, be better than me.” He wanted his boy to be a leader, and a “good human being to all people.”
He said he was proud of the man his son had become.
Marty McNair laughed at the joy on his son’s face when he finally earned his driver’s permit — after failing the first time. He recalled the duo going on college visits together, and the pleasure he took watching his son run out onto the field.
An offensive lineman who wore the No. 79 jersey, he played in one game in the Terps’ 2017 season, making his collegiate debut against Towson University.
“Every time you ran against Jordan, you ran against a mountain,” his father said.
McNair majored in kinesiology. He hoped, eventually, to become a physical therapist.
His father said the family has created The Jordan McNair Foundation and is collecting memorial donations.
“This is a tough time, extremely tough,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we are grateful for the 19 years we had.”
McNair’s death has shocked his community, which is left with little information about what happened to the young and promising athlete who dreamed of making it to the NFL. The university has hired a sports medicine consulting group to conduct an external review of the football team’s protocols and policies.
Walters Inc., founded by Dr. Rod Walters, a former college athletic trainer, will begin its review by the end of the week. The process could take up to 90 days.
“All of us here today are struggling to understand how Jordan could be taken from us,” McDonogh Headmaster Charles W. Britton said. “But I do know one thing for sure: Jordan left this world knowing he had an amazing mom and dad, friends who would do anything for him and an abundance of love in his life.”
Maryland coach DJ Durkin said McNair was a man of few words, but had a “way of making you the best version of you.”
“You couldn’t find a better teammate or a better friend,” Durkin said. “He had a good soul.”
Two Maryland teammates spoke about McNair’s loyal friendship, passion for football and basketball, and his ability to quote episodes of “The Office” almost verbatim.
He always seemed to be eating, they joked. Roommate Johnny Jordan recalled their weekly “Chipotle Thursday” tradition. They went to the College Park location so regularly that the staff knew their orders.
“Jordan is someone that no one will ever forget,” said the fellow offensive lineman.
Childhood friend and Maryland teammate Ellis McKennie said it was a privilege to grow up alongside McNair.
“I refuse to believe this is the end,” McKennie said. “The story of Jordan McNair does not end in this church. … Your name and legacy shall live on.”