Former NFL player Steve McNair would have been 47 years old today, and he remains a legend in football in Mississippi and around the world.
McNair was born and raised in Mount Olive, Miss., where he lettered in football, basketball and track. In addition to leading his team to a championship game in his junior year, McNair turned down offers to play at big schools such as the University of Florida. He eventually agreed to play at Alcorn State University where he broke records.
By 1994 in his senior season at ASU, McNair had a season high of 5,377 passing yards and 904 rushing yards. He also threw for 56 touchdowns.
The Houston Oilers drafted McNair as the third pick of the 1995 NFL draft. The Oilers changed their name to the Tennessee Titans in 1999, and that’s where McNair played most of his NFL career.
In 2000, McNair led the Titans to a 13-3 season and an appearance in the Super Bowl where they lost in the final seconds to the St. Louis Rams 23-16.
McNair was playing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 when he led them to a 13-3 season playing with notable players such as Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. In 2008 McNair announced his retirement from the NFL.
Just a little over a year later, McNair was killed in a murder-suicide by Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi, his mistress, on July 4, 2009.
McNair was 36 years old at the time of his death.
Kelvin Carter has created a legacy at VHS as head basketball coach
Vicksburg High School boy’s basketball coach Kelvin Carter has finished his best season since being named head coach in 2017.
Carter became interim head coach in January 2017 after former coach Dellie Robinson fell ill midway through the season. Under Carter’s leadership, the Gators went 10-5 that year paving the way for VHS to offer him the permanent position.
In his first full season as head coach, Carter and the Gators didn’t have the record they hoped for as they ended with a 13-17 record. They still managed to get some big victories, including beating Jefferson County 104-43.
2018-2019 would be a different season for the Gators under Carter’s leadership. Vicksburg finished 17-11-1 with the help of lead scorer Devan Kiner who dropped 14 points per game.
By this time in Carter’s career, he had not defeated crosstown rival Warren Central, but the Gators managed to end a game with the Vikings in a tie.
The 2019-2020 season marked Carter’s third year as head coach, and the Gators came out stronger than ever. VHS not only won 20 games under Carter, but he also led them to defeat the Vikings twice, including a huge 82-49 victory.
This season, Carter had his team balanced to where they all worked together to share the ball and win their games. His three lead scorers were Peytin Jackson, Taylon Smith and Cameron Butler who all averaged more than 10 points per game.
The Gators ended the season with a 20-10 record. In their final game Saturday, they lost to Center Hill High in the playoffs in a close 69-60 game.
Throughout Carter’s tenure, he proved that the Gators are in good hands and will continue to improve under a great coach.
Roxanne Gay holds Mississippi title in Sporting Clays
When Roxanne and Joe Gay went to Tunica with their friend Mike Kavanaugh to a sporting clay event, it was just for fun.
She “could actually hit a target,” Roxanne Gay recalled. “I thought I was pretty awesome.”
That was 19 years ago, and since then, she has racked up about 100 trophies in local, state and national competitions. She tied for first place nationally and is currently the Mississippi State Women’s Champion.
Gay grew up in Vicksburg, the daughter of the late Fred and Marguerite Malik. After graduating from Warren Central High School, she studied nursing and earned her RN. She married Joe Gay, and they have two daughters, Lindsey Koestler and Lauren Rohrer.
She knew how to use a gun before the Tunica trip, for she went hunting with Joe and they sometimes target-practiced on the farm.
Sporting clays simulate flight paths of live game such as ducks, doves, pheasants and rabbits. In sporting clay competition, Gay uses a Blaser, a German-made shotgun with four interchangeable barrels – .410, 28, 20 and 12 gauge.
The competition is keen, and competitors shoot at a moving target.
“It’s moving and so are you,” Gay explained. “You must stay ahead of the target.”
It’s an action-filled sport that’s fun for the whole family.
She said it calls for hand-to-eye coordination and advises to “go with your instinct.” When Gay shoots, she has both eyes open to acquire the target, “and then I squint one eye prior to taking the shot.”
“You aim a rifle, but you point a shotgun,” Gay said, and advises to pull the shotgun into your shoulder to reduce recoil. Otherwise, it will “kick” you.
Gay has competed in NSCA-sanctioned events in Tunica, Memphis, Flora, Baton Rouge and San Antonio. Her best score was 94 out of 100. When the Sporting Clay event was held for a few years in Yokena, her best score was 92.
Gay said that she practices some at home, and her husband and daughters join her, but they shoot for fun, not to compete. Her son-in-law, Chase Koestler, competes in some of the NSCA events when work allows.
Sporting Clay shooting is more challenging to her than hunting, Gay said. Once, she killed a nine-point buck after being on the stand for about 45 minutes.
“It just stood there,” she said, adding that shooting it “was more like luck than skill.”
In competition, E is the lowest class and Master is the highest class. Competitors progress through the classes by winning events in tournaments. Gay’s goal is to reach Master Class and shoot well enough to be sponsored.
“I like competing with other women and men,” she said. “This is a gender-neutral competition (where) men and women compete as equals. If I win, it was because I legitimately won.”
Those who keep us safe: Brenda Johnson
Faith, family and being a crossing guard are just a few passions of Brenda Johnson, a crossing guard for the City of Vicksburg.
The Vicksburg native has been pursuing traffic directing for the past five years.
“I am passionate about being a crossing guard,” Johnson said. “It is a dangerous job to have, but I love it.”
Her enthusiasm and passion pour out into every person she encounters at her post, and they pour just as much back into her.
“Sometimes something may be going on in my life where I may be disappointed,” Johnson said, “but when I get out of my car and see the sweet faces of the kids and their parents taking them to school it makes my job worth it.”
Being a crossing guard, Johnson is exposed to all weather elements.
“It can be pouring down rain,” she said, “and those kids roll down the window just to speak to me, and that just brightens my day.”
Johnson said it’s not the money that keeps her going. That is why she works an additional job as a production manager for the Vicksburg Warren School District where she has been working with the Child Nutrition Department since 2007.
“My mother was involved in child nutrition, and she actually trained me to be a head cook while she was on partial retirement,” Johnson said. “From there, I was asked if I want to go to manager school, and now I am a certified production manager.”
Johnson has made it her life to be a shining light for the people she sees each and every day, and they notice.
“Just a couple weeks ago, my daughter called me and told me they had a post about me on Facebook,” Johnson said. “She sent me some of the post, and I got emotional because I had just had the worst week. People actually took the time to say sweet things about me.”
Johnson said that was one of the most heartfelt moments in her career and made her bad week disappear from her memory.
But it’s not just the students and parents that feel her positive vibes. Community members have also expressed praise for Johnson’s work. She was called to the office of the school she was working at and there sat a basket of goodies and balloons.
“A lady was there with an appreciation basket and said she and her coworkers talk about the smile I always have on my face while working,” Johnson said. “The lady said they will come through my post just to see my smile if they have had a bad day.”
That story, and many more just like it, bring tears of joy to Johnson’s eyes.
Even though Johnson did not start her crossing guard career right away, it has been a passion brewing from a very young age.
“I remember when I was 12-years-old, and I went to McIntyre School,” Johnson said. “I went to a carnival, and they had lots of different career options at the carnival. I remember seeing this crossing guard with police hats and thinking, ‘I want one of those hats,’ and I said right there I want to be a crossing guard or a traffic director.”
Years later, she got her chance.
“I was working at Vicksburg High School,” she said, “and the supervisor officer over the crossing guards was talking to one of his crossing guards and said they needed another crossing guard.
“He wasn’t talking to me, but I was eavesdropping, and when he asked her did she know anybody I burst out and said, ‘I’ll do it! I’ll be a crossing guard’.”
Johnson filled out the paperwork and her training started. Her first post was at Bowmar Elementary.
“I built such a bond with the parents and students at Bowmar Elementary,” she said. “Then they moved me to the Mission intersection where I’ve been for two years.”
The smiling crossing guard did not start off smiling at the Mission 66 and Baldwin Ferry Road intersection.
“I told them I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “That intersection terrified me. I just watched my supervisor do it the first day. Then I did it just a little bit and my supervisors, Bobby Jones and Eric Paymon, worked with me.”
“The next day, I got out there by myself, and it was like I had been doing it all the time. It just came naturally.”
Johnson, a mother of two and grandmother of two, says it makes her day when the students recognize her even out of her uniform.
“Everybody says what I do is phenomenal,” she said, “but I give all the glory to God.”
Johnson regularly attends Calvary Baptist Church and is a member of Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church where she sings in the choir and with the praise team.
“I guess you can say my church and being a crossing guard are my two passions, ” she said.
“I have the most rewarding job in the world,” she added, “and I love it.”
“Those who keep us safe” is a series profiling people in Vicksburg and Warren County whose work contributes to our safety, whether on the front lines, in the back office or in positions of leadership in organizations dedicated to serving the community in times of danger and crises. Nominate someone for the series by sending an email to email@example.com, letting us know why the community should know about him or her.
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