Photo courtesy Alcorn Communications
Alcorn State University reached into its football past for a new head coach after then-Head Coach Jay Hopson left to take the same job at the University of Southern Mississippi. The university quickly announced former great Fred McNair as interim head coach after Hopson's departure. ASU named him the full-time head coach on Feb. 2, 2016. Under Hopson, McNair was the assistant head coach and quarterback coach for the 2016 season.
McNair was responsible for developing quarterback John Gibbs Jr., who went on to be the Southwestern Athletic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2014. He also helped current quarterback Lenorris Footman develop into one of the best in the conference.
Those outside of Mississippi might know McNair as the older brother of Steve McNair, who had a successful NFL career. But Fred McNair was a great player in his own right.
While playing at Alcorn State, he first played wide receiver before moving to quarterback in his junior season. He went on to be one of the best quarterbacks in school history before his brother took the top spot.
McNair signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1990 after he finished playing for the Braves. He wasn't able to earn a roster spot in the NFL, but he still had a lengthy professional career.
After Dallas cut him, he went on to play for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 1991. He played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1992 before moving on to the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football later that year.
McNair spent just one season in the WLAF before going on to a long career in the Arena Football League. He played in the league from 1993 until he retired in 2002. During his AFL career, he played for the Albany Firebirds, the Florida Bobcats, the Carolina Cobras and the Buffalo Destroyers. Before his time was done in the AFL, he set several records in the league and for the different clubs he played with. He still holds most of the passing records in the league.
In 2005, the Mount Olive, Miss., native began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Millsaps College. He spent four years with the Majors and helped coach them to two Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference titles.
He moved on to teach and coach at his high-school alma mater, Mt. Olive High School, in 2009. As the offensive coordinator, his play-calling helped the Pirates win back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010.
He then accepted a position as the head football coach, athletic director and a teacher at Collins High School in 2011. During his first season leading the school's football team, he led Collins to the second round of the 2011 3A Playoffs.
In 2012, he returned to Alcorn State as an assistant coach, but he quickly worked his way up the coaching ladder, taking the head-coaching job four years later.
McNair faced one of the toughest jobs in college football as he took over an ASU program that had won two straight SWAC East titles under Hopson and won back-to-back SWAC Football Championships in 2014 and 2015.
He led the Braves to a 5-5 regular-season record and to a third straight SWAC Football Championship Game. In the title game, ASU fell to Grambling State University, who was the favorite to win.
This season, McNair will try to become the first coach in Alcorn State history to lead his team to four consecutive title games. He will also try to coach in the final title game since it ends after this season.
Along with all the other coaches and select players in the league, McNair will be on hand for 2017 SWAC Football Media Day on Friday, July 14. The conference's official website, swac.org, will have video and audio of the event.