In the latest episode of Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan, former college teammates of Steve McNair tell Sports Illustrated NFL writer Tim Rohan that Bus Cook, a prominent NFL agent, used to pay McNair money under the table while the quarterback was in college.
Jerry Fletcher, who served as McNair's backup at Alcorn State University, details how he and McNair would visit Cook and pick up money about once a month. "Me and Steve used to disappear all the time and we’d just go to Bus Cook['s] office, all the time. You know? He’d pick up a little, some money or whatever, and then we used to leave and come on back to Alcorn. We did that numerous occasions. ... [W]hen me and him was going down there he was getting exactly $5,000."
Marcus Hinton, another Alcorn State teammate who would eventually hire Cook as an agent, also alludes to financial backing. Rohan asks, "Was Bus giving Steve money, or ... or you know, helping him out financially, back then?"
"I don’t know if he was in high school," Hinton says, "but I mean in college, I mean he was all looking out for us, and doing stuff for us."
A third teammate, Spurgeon Banyard, says he was aware that McNair was being paid by Cook while at Alcorn State.
Cook has denied the allegations. McNair went on to hire Cook as his agent when he entered the NFL.
McNair would go to play 13 years in the NFL with the Titans and the Ravens. He was found murdered in his Nashville condo on July 4, 2009.
You can read the full excerpt from the episode below, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
More pointedly, Fletcher said he’d go with Steve to visit Bus and pick up money. He said they went maybe once a month.
Jerry Fletcher: Me and Steve used to disappear all the time and we’d just go to Bus Cook office, all the time. You know? He’d pick a little, some money or whatever, and then we used to leave and come on back to Alcorn. We did that numerous occasions ...
Tim Rohan: … How much money was he getting? Do you have any idea?
Fletcher: Well, when me and him was going down there he was getting exactly $5,000.
By Steve’s senior year, by the time he was a Heisman candidate, Fletcher told me Steve had upgraded his car.
Rohan: Did he have that same car all four years or all three years?
Fletcher: Hmm, the senior year he got a Lexus.
Rohan: (laughs) Oh, yeah?
Fletcher: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rohan: That must have turned some heads.
Fletcher: Oh, yes sir. That turned some head. Yes, sir.
Fletcher: He have arrived then. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Hinton was also on that Alcorn State team, and he was a good friend of McNair’s. He met Bus Cook through Steve, and he, too, would later hire Cook as his agent. I asked Marcus about these payments.
Rohan: Was Bus giving Steve money, or ... or you know, helping him out financially, back then?
Marcus: Back ... I don’t know if he was in high school, but I mean in college, I mean he was all looking out for us, and doing stuff for us.
Spurgeon Banyard heard the same thing back in the day: Cook was paying Steve in college. I ran this all by Bus Cook and he denied it.
When McNair went pro, he hired Cook to act as both his agent and his attorney. Bus negotiated contracts with the Oilers and then the Titans on Steve’s behalf. He usually dealt with Floyd Reese, the team’s former general manager. Floyd told me Bus was more than an agent to Steve. He was an advisor, a mentor, a conduit. Floyd said Steve and Bus really bonded because they were both country boys at heart.